An estimated 11.5 million illegal immigrants are living and often working in the United States. Figuring out what to do with them has confounded Washington for years.
Lax enforcement could mean more illegal immigrants competing with citizens for jobs and some social services, without necessarily paying income taxes. A too-tight policy could mean farmers and others in industries that rely on the cheaper labor of illegal immigrants are left begging for workers, passing higher costs on to everyone else or going out of business.
Obama backed the DREAM Act, a failed bill that would have provided a path to legal status for many young illegal immigrants. In June, Obama decided to allow as many as 1.7 million of them to stay for up to two years. Romney supports completing a fence at the Mexican border and other tough security measures while pledging to veto the DREAM Act.
A poster with an image of Cesar Chavez and the motto "Si se puede (Yes we can") is seen at an orientation seminar for illegal immigrants, to determine if they qualify for temporary work permits, at the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA), in Los Angeles, Thursday, Sept. 20, 2012. Schools and consulates have been flooded with requests for documents since President Barack Obama's administration said many young illegal immigrants may be eligible for two-year renewable work permits. The new policy has left schools and consulates scrambling for quick fixes ranging from new online forms, reassigned workers and extended hours. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)