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How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Immigration a non-subject during last night's presidential debate - a few reactions

DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 03:  U.S. President Barack Obama (L) shakes hands with Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney during the Presidential Debate at the University of Denver on October 3, 2012 in Denver, Colorado.
DENVER, CO - OCTOBER 03: U.S. President Barack Obama (L) shakes hands with Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney during the Presidential Debate at the University of Denver on October 3, 2012 in Denver, Colorado. Pool/Getty Images

One of the most talked-about topics this morning surrounding last night's presidential debate was one that wasn't even mentioned, that being immigration.

In spite of President Obama's controversial move to provide temporary legal status for undocumented youths living in the country since they were minors, and in spite of Republican candidate Mitt Romney's recent announcement that he would discontinue the program, the subject of immigration failed to come up during last night's discussion of domestic issues, and it's left some observers scratching their heads. 

Several bloggers and tweeters have been addressing it today. On the CalWatchdog site, in a post illustrated by that classic 90s-era immigrant highway crossing sign, John Seiler praised Romney's overall performance but observed:

Romney won the primaries largely because he talked tough on immigration. He painted his main opponents, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Rick Perry, as amnesty wimps. This went over big time with the party’s anti-immigration base.

On Shakesville, feminist blogger Melissa McEwan wrote:

This was the domestic policy debate, and there was no meaningful discussion of environmental policy, climate change, increasing food prices, infrastructure issues, scientific funding, homelessness, hunger, immigration, bankruptcies, foreclosures, the Violence Against Women Act. The only domestic policy that seems to matter now is taxes. 

And on the America's Voice immigrant advocacy site, Van Le noted:

Immigration was not mentioned in last night’s first presidential debate. But, the game-changer had already happened the day before, on Tuesday of this week when Mitt Romney announced that he will in fact end Obama’s deferred action for DREAMers program upon taking office.

It’s a huge deal.

Romney's take on the future of deferred action is a big deal: In a nutshell, Romney told the Denver Post on Monday that that he would not cancel the two-year deportation reprieves already granted by the Obama administration under new policy, for which the application period kicked off August 15. But on Wednesday, "campaign aides clarified that Mr. Romney intended to halt the program after he took office and would not issue any new deferrals," according to the New York Times.

Deferred action is also the biggest domestic immigration story of the moment, making the omission of immigration in a debate that focused on domestic issues all the more noticeable. It will eventually come up, but elsewhere, most likely when the candidates debate foreign policy. This from Slate's Matthew Yglesias:

Perhaps this is the price we pay for the anachronistic and conceptually unsound decision to segregate the debates into "domestic" (i.e., budget) issues and "foreign" (i.e., bombs) issues but it's extremely frustrating to me how the topic of immigration continues to be sequestered away from mainstream economic debate.

We treat it as a kind of narrow issue of ethnic politics (working class Latinos vs working class whites) or interest groups (tech companies want to hire Indian engineers) rather than as the core economic policy question it deserves to be.

Thoughts, anyone? Were you disappointed that the candidates didn't discuss immigration last night? Was it a missed opportunity for one or both? Feel free to share below.

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