DREAM a Little Dream

Well, primary season is definitely over. In an interview with Univision on Friday evening, President Obama went after Mitt Romney on both immigration:

The challenge we’ve got on immigration reform is very simple. I’ve got a majority of Democrats who are prepared to vote for it, and I’ve got no Republicans who are prepared to vote for it. It’s worse than that. We now have a Republican nominee who said that the Arizona laws are a model for the country; that — and these are laws that potentially would allow someone to be stopped and picked up and asked where their citizenship papers are based on an assumption.

and Romney’s failure to release his tax returns:

I think that it’s important for any candidate in public office to be as transparent as possible, to let people know who we are, what we stand for, and you know, I think that this is just carrying on a tradition that has existed throughout the modern presidency.

It’s really fascinating to see which news outlets/stories seized on immigration vs. taxes in their coverage here.

Some critics asked why President Obama didn’t do more to push the immigration reform issue in the past three years, implying that this is a cynical election year move. That ignores the obvious answer that Congress hasn’t exactly been willing to play ball here. President Obama has pushed for passage of the smaller DREAM Act, which would allow children brought here illegally as children a path to citizenship if they graduate high school, demonstrate good moral character, and attend college or serve in the military. That legislation, heartbreakingly, fell just short of passage in 2010.

For what it’s worth, Romney opposes the DREAM act, too, and particularly attacked Texas Governor Rick Perry earlier this year for singing the Texas DREAM act, which allows undocumented students to attend public colleges and universities at in-state tuition:

It’s an argument I just can’t follow, to go to the University of Texas, if you’re an illegal alien, you get an in-state tuition discount. You know how much that is? That’s $22,000 a year. Four years of college, almost $100,000 discount if you are an illegal alien. If you are a US citizen from any one of the other 49 states, you have to pay $100,000 more. That doesn’t make sense to me. And that kind of magnet draws people into this country to get that education, to get the $100,000 break. It makes no sense. We have to turn off the magnet of extraordinary government benefits like a $100,000 discount for going to the University of Texas. That shouldn’t be allowed. It makes no sense at all.

Just to be clear, to receive in-state tuition in Texas, undocumented students have to have attended high school while residing in Texas and to have lived in Texas for at least a year between entering and graduating high school. Because that’s how in-state tuition works. So Americans from other states who really want to immigrate to Texas to get in-state tuition could meet these same requirements and also qualify for in-state tuition. Of course, Romney’s already demonstrated he doesn’t really have a sense of how normal people think about college and paying for it, so it’s not surprising he gets confused here. Romney has also promised to veto a federal DREAM Act and trumpeted his opposition, as Governor of Massachusetts, to granting either drivers licenses or in-state tuition to undocumented immigrants.

To understand exactly how tragically the failure to pass the DREAM Act is squandering the potential of promising aspiring citizens, check out this amazing series by Doug McGray. I’ve always felt like the juxtaposition of the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and the failure to pass the DREAM Act in one day in late December 2010 illustrates the odd limits of human moral progress: The movement for equality for gay and lesbian Americans has made far greater progress than any one could have once imagined, in large part because, once people started breaking down taboos around talking about homosexuality, so many Americans realized that people they love–their children, siblings, friends–are gay are lesbian, and the love in those relationships has led to changes in public attitudes and policies. In contrast, the majority of Americans don’t, and never will, have children, siblings, or loved ones who are undocumented immigrants, and so this group remains forever “them” and never “us.”