What happened
Immigration this week became cemented as one of the most important and contentious issues in the race for the Republican presidential nomination, as front-runners Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani traded sharp attacks in Wednesday’s debate (Bloomberg in the Salt Lake Tribune) and a new report said immigration over the last seven years had hit record levels. (The New York Times, free registration)

What the commentators said
Romney and Giuliani have “disgraced themselves as they pandered relentlessly to the growing anti-immigrant feeling in their party,” said E.J. Dionne Jr. in The Washington Post (free registration). Giuliani was “warmly inclined to immigrants” when he was mayor of “liberal and diverse New York,” and Romney looked “very small” when—after Giuliani accused him of letting illegal immigrants cut his grass—the former Massachusetts governor responded by saying he shouldn’t have to ask for papers from every worker “with a funny accent.”

The spat over Romney’s Guatemalan yardmen was typical of the debate over immigration on the campaign trail, said The Miami Herald in an editorial (free registration). It was “titillating but pointless.” The nation “deserves a profound debate over immigration,” but all they’re getting is vitriol that feeds already “rampant anti-immigration hysteria.” And the “quien es mas macho” duel between Romney and Giuliani took the debate to a new low.

The candidates have a duty to tell voters how they’ll handle illegal immigration, said Michelle Oddis in HumanEvents.com. “Securing our borders and dealing with the at least 12 million illegal aliens now here” is one of the most important issues of the 2008 campaign. We need more—not less—“straight answers” from the candidates about how they plan to police people coming into our country, and keep out would-be immigrants who try to get in illegally.