During the U.S. presidential debates, the word "immigration" was mentioned only once, odd for a time of steep job losses, when bashing foreign workers might normally sell. Why the high road? One reason: John McCain, who has a pro-immigration record, hardened his stance for the election but may not want to highlight his flip-flop. Barack Obama, for his part, favors a path to citizenship—not exactly grist for a populist crusade.
Finally, while immigration was a hot issue in the 2006 elections, it's not anymore because migrants aren't flocking to the U.S. The housing-market slide has gutted jobs in construction, a crucial sector for immigrants. The household income of noncitizen foreigners sank 7 percent in 2007. As a result, Mexican immigration fell by 25 percent last year, and Central American by 50 percent. The challenge for the next president may be how to lure them back.