On Immigration, Romney Favors a Border Wall and Merit-Based Citizenship; Wilson Opposes Wall, Supports Legal Status for Undocumented Residents already Here

The immigration system in the United States is badly broken, says Republican Senate candidate Mitt Romney, and it’s “quintessential Washington” that everyone agrees change is needed but nothing on the issue has happened in decades.

“It’s been a long time,” Romney said, “which is a pox on both houses — Republican and Democrat — and a lack of leadership.”

Romney, a former Massachusetts governor and two-time presidential candidate, said immigration reform would be one of his top priorities if elected to the seat of retiring Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. And Romney’s Democratic opponent, Salt Lake County Councilwoman Jenny Wilson, has similarly focused on the subject of immigration during her campaign.

“It was a topic of conversation in Congress in the ’90s — the need to reform, the need to pass something,” Wilson said. “My position has consistently been that we need comprehensive, family-centered and compassionate immigration reform.”

Compared to other campaign issues, the two candidates are relatively close together on the subject of immigration. Both oppose mass deportations and family separation, and support investments in border security and legal protections for so-called “Dreamers,” or residents brought into the country illegally as children.

But the details are where Romney and Wilson diverge, with his favoring a physical wall on the southern border and a merit-based point system for awarding citizenship, and her belief that undocumented but otherwise law-abiding residents should be free to live “out of the shadows.”

“Let’s do what is compassionate and what will actually serve our economy,” Wilson said, “and let people step forward, be registered and get on a path to permanent legal status.”

Waiting in line

In debates and public statements, Romney has spoken of the need for people currently in the country illegally to “get in line” to earn legal status and citizenship.

But no such line exists. Instead, immigrating and naturalization into the United States involves a complex and labyrinthine series of procedures and requirements that many people are unable to navigate without the help of an attorney.

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