As Forbes and other publications report, candidate races all over the country are revolving their platforms around the topic of immigration. From Minnesota to Utah, battles for Senate seats and other offices are being fought over key beliefs regarding the rights of immigrants documented and undocumented.
According to one article from CNN, candidates and committees alike have spent over $150 million on campaign ads that target immigration. This expenditure marks a significant increase from other recent election cycles.
Immigration is seen as a polarizing issue between Democrat and Republican voters. Both parties seek to use the issue to increase voter turnout, especially in key districts.
CNN points out that immigration isn’t the top issue discussed in campaign ads. The issue is still outnumbered by ads dealing with health care, taxes, unemployment, government spending, and corruption.
What makes immigration ads unique, however, is that they deal with intensely personal topics and that they are being aired even in districts thousands of miles away from the Mexican border. In Michigan, the issue came up 35% of the time. In Indiana, immigration was discussed in 43% of ads.
Candidates all over the country have become vocal opponents or proponents of the current administration’s immigration policies and practices. Some discussions are particularly volatile. For example, Senator Tina Smith, a Democrat from Minnesota, has been vocal in her opposition to the policies that separate immigrant children from their parents at the Mexican border.
Family separation as a topic is seen negatively by both sides, with Republicans and Democrats both criticizing the reversed policy. Statistics make it easy to understand why. In divorced families where fathers and children live separately, only 22% of fathers see their children more than once a week. Separated immigrant parents, however, see their children far less, possibly losing contact for months as their cases are processed in the court system.
Even though the separation policy has been largely reversed, some ads still seek political momentum by criticizing to the unpopular policy, with ads in places as far as Oregon and Washington state featuring emotional family messages and empty playgrounds.
According to Forbes, The issue is heating up currently as over 1,000 people recently began a march from Honduras to the U.S. border to escape violence and poverty in their home country. The marchers include children and pregnant women.
In Utah, former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his opponent, Democratic Councilwoman Jenny Wilson, have both engaged in the discussion of immigration, but their opinions are relatively similar. Both candidates oppose mass deportations and family separations.
However, according to The Salt Lake Tribune,their beliefs diverge in the details.
Like many other Democrats running for office this November, Wilson seeks a compassionate approach. She wants undocumented but otherwise law-abiding residents to be able to live “out of the shadows.” She believes that in a country made up of 13% immigrants, current residents and dreamers especially need to be made citizens. In her view, only violent perpetrators should be deported.
Romney, in contrast, supports a border wall and a “waiting list” for immigrants seeking citizenship. He promotes a merit-based point system for accepting documented immigrants.
Romney’s and Wilson’s debate is just one iteration of many. With elections just a few weeks away, only time will tell if the advertisements and discussions will drive voters to the polls, and what the results will be.