LOS ANGELES, Oct. 29 (Xinhua) -- Immigration reform is still an important issue in the U.S. presidential campaigns as both candidates pledge to support it, though they differ on how.
In their second presidential debate on Oct.16, President Barack Obama reiterated his support for comprehensive immigration reform, and his Republican challenger Mitt Romney also said he would support it, but blamed Obama for failing to get the issue done in his first term.
"I'll get it done. I'll get it done. First year," Romney pledged, attacking Obama by saying, "My view is that this president should have honored his promise to do as he said."
Obama recently has reiterated that he is confident he can pass a compromise immigration bill if he wins a second term.
Despite their support for such a move, they differ on how to do it.
Obama's reform includes a pathway to citizenship for about 12 million undocumented immigrants in the United States, but Romney made clear that he doesn't favor "amnesty" for those in the country illegally.
Obama also called out at Romney for backing "self-deportation," a philosophy that involves passing tough immigration enforcement laws that would in turn push undocumented immigrants to leave the country on their own.
However, Obama expressed his willingness to trade with Republicans in the U.S. Congress for an increase in security along the U.S.-Mexico border with increased deportations.
For Obama, a Democrat, it is important to pledge to his supporters that he would finish the unfinished in his second term on immigration reform, while for Romney, a Republican, it is a chance to win support from those who thought he would not support immigration reform.
Hispanics and other ethnic voters are strong supporters to immigration reform. Neither candidates want to lose those votes.
There are 52 million Hispanic citizens in the United States, including 24 million who can vote, which represent 11 percent of the electorate in the country.
According to the Pew Hispanic Institute, those voters rank immigration as one of their five chief concerns behind the economy and jobs.
That could tip the balance in states with a large Hispanic population, including battleground states Nevada, Colorado and Florida.
A recent poll by polling body Latino Decisiones shows that Obama has about 71 percent of support among Hispanic voters, while Romney has only 20 percent.
However, even those who support Obama are also disappointed in him for failing to fulfill a 2008 promise for comprehensive immigration reform.
Meanwhile, Republicans accuse Democrats of exploiting the issue to divide the Republican Party and Hispanic communities.
Alci Maldonado, head of the Republican National Hispanic Assembly, has said that it was Republicans who presented a vast immigration reform plan under President George W. Bush, which failed to make it through the Senate in 2007.
But today Republicans "are facing the consequences of the negative environment which they created for Latinos," Jody Vallejo, a sociology professor at the University of Southern California, told AFP.
Business Week said in an article that beyond the huge importance of immigrants to the U.S. economy today, three forces are making immigration reform more urgent.
Growing crackdowns on undocumented workers at the state level are already hurting farming and are likely to spread to other sectors, including construction; the aging of populations worsens in the U.S. and Europe; increasing opportunities in the developing world are luring home skilled immigrants that the U.S. needs most.
High-tech industries probably have the most to gain from action on immigration, Business Week noted.
Carl Lin of Rutgers University looked at the impact on tech stock prices by a doubling of H-1B visas for skilled foreign workers, thanks to the 1998 American Competitiveness and Workforce Improvement Act.
High-tech industries absorb around 80 percent of H-1B visa applicants, according to Business Week.
Lin estimated that in the month after the act passed, companies in those industries enjoyed 15 percent and higher cumulative excess returns - a measure of the impact of news on stock prices, said Business Week.
According to a Kauffman Foundation study by researcher Vivek Wadhwa, in 2006, one-quarter of all patent applications filed in the U.S. were made by foreign nationals.
Wadhwa's study of foreign-born entrepreneurs found that one-quarter of science and technology companies founded from 1995 to 2005 had a foreign-born lead technologist or chief economist. These businesses employed 450,000 workers.
Also, a poll conducted by the University of Southern California and Los Angeles Times this week shows that California voters are more tolerant of illegal immigrants now than before.