Every year, tens of thousands of young, undocumented immigrants graduate from American high schools, but are quickly stuck — they can’t qualify for college aid, and they can’t work legally. America is the only home they’ve ever known — in most cases, they were, at a very young age, brought into the country illegally by their parents — but at 18, they have few options.
The DREAM Act (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act), which has traditionally enjoyed bipartisan support, provides a path to citizenship for these young immigrants — graduate from high school, get conditional permanent residency status, go to college or serve in the military, pay some steep fees, and become eligible for citizenship. The Pentagon has urged Congress to pass it, and the CBO found that it lowers the deficit, a priority Republicans at least pretend to care about.
President Obama strongly supports the bill, and were it not for a Republican filibuster, it would have become law a year ago. Mitt Romney, meanwhile, has vowed to veto the DREAM Act if elected.
Mr. Romney offered his usual stump speech — a focus on President Obama, with no mention of his Republican rivals — but when a voter asked him if he’d veto the Dream Act as president, Mr. Romney said, “The answer is yes.”
Though Mr. Romney has previously been critical of the legislation, which would provide a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants who were brought into the country at a young age and then went on to attend college, Saturday marked the first time that he has outright declared that he would veto the legislation should it cross his desk as president.
Keep in mind, we’re talking about legislation that was written in large part by Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Dick Lugar (R-Ind.) — neither of whom are especially moderate — and it used to enjoy the enthusiastic backing of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).
I mention this context because it suggests the DREAM Act is arguably the least controversial, bipartisan immigration reform measure. The proposal is just humane.
But Romney doesn’t care. He’s running for the Republican presidential nomination, for Pete’s sake.
This comes on the heels, by the way, of a new report from the Pew Hispanic Center, a nonpartisan research group, that found Latino voters aren’t pleased with President Obama’s deportation policy, but they nevertheless strongly prefer the president to his Republican challengers, including a 68% to 23% advantage over Romney.
As these voters hear more about Romney — not just his opposition to the DREAM Act, but his animus towards Latino immigrants in general — the former governor is digging himself a deep hole with one of the nation’s fastest-growing constituencies.
Lionel Sosa, a Texas strategist who advised George W. Bush John McCain on appealing to Hispanics, recently told the NYT, “[Romney] can make as many trips to Florida and New Mexico and Colorado and other swing states that have a large Latino population, but he can write off the Latino vote. He’s not going to gain it again.”
Given the size of the Latino population, that’s writing off a huge chunk of the American electorate.