Who Lost the Second Presidential Debate?

Answer: Immigrants and anyone interested in fixing the nation’s immigration system.

It’s now clear that immigration has replaced Social Security as the “third rail of American politics.” Touch it and you’re dead. The words “immigration” and “immigrants” were never mentioned in Tuesday night’s debate between Senators John McCain and Barack Obama at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee. The candidates and their campaigns are maintaining a perfect record of not addressing this subject during the debates. But, as we have reported elsewhere, both campaigns have been running Spanish-language TV ads aimed at Latino voters that criticize and distort each other’s record on immigration reform.

While the candidates’ silence on this subject was notable, what was truly striking was that none of the questions posed by voters and moderator Tom Brokaw dealt with immigration. NBC’s Brokaw began the town hall-style debate by saying that “tens of thousands” of questions had been submitted by people across the country. It’s hard to believe that none of those questions dealt with the candidates’ proposals for dealing with the estimated 11.5 million undocumented immigrants in the US. It’s only a guess, but Brokaw and the team who culled the submitted queries, must have thought that immigration isn’t important enough for even one debate question.

So Obama and McCain got off the hook, and tens of millions of immigrants –both legal and undocumented – along with their children, neighbors and, yes, their employers and co-workers are still waiting to hear the two candidates compare and contrast their views on immigration reform. This, in an election year when immigrant and ethnic voters may prove pivotal in a number of battleground states.

During the presidential primaries former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney tried to use John McCain’s support for immigration reform as a wedge issue against the Arizona Senator. Romney’s strategy failed. But maybe he was more successful than most people believe. There is now a chill over the presidential campaign when it comes to talking openly about immigrants and immigration. Four weeks before Election Day no one – neither the candidates nor the mainstream media – seems willing to break the ice.

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