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Transition 2012

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Immigration Update: Romney’s DREAM Act Hot Seat

by Newsteam Staff
April 20, 2012

U.S. port of entry in El Paso, Texas November 14, 2010. (Eric Thayer/Courtesy Reuters)


President Barack Obama and GOP frontrunner Mitt Romney are taking on immigration as they compete for the hearts and minds of Latino voters this fall.

And the DREAM Act, which would provide a path to citizenship to undocumented immigrant kids, has become central to the debate in recent weeks as Romney grapples with an alternate plan (Politico) from Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio.

Some analysts expect Romney’s position on illegal immigration to soften (Yahoo) so he can woo Latinos now that the primary is winding down. But Greg Sargent in the Washington Post says Romney might have difficulty because the Republican base could be more supportive of his immigration adviser Kris Kobach, who opposes any kind of “amnesty” proposal.

“If Romney embraces Rubio’s proposal, then he’s stiff-arming his own immigration adviser and could anger conservatives who don’t want him to pivot on the core issue of legal status; Romney may get pilloried for breaking his promise to oppose ‘amnesty’ at all costs,” Sargent says.

Tamar Jacoby at the New America Foundation in an LA Times op-ed says supporting the Rubio plan, dubbed DREAM 2.0, is good for helping Romney communicate to Latinos. “For many Latinos, immigration is a threshold issue and Romney is stuck on the wrong side of the threshold,” Jacoby writes.

In a followup op-ed in the LA Times, attorney Raul Reyes says Jacoby has it wrong and that Latinos have heard Romney loud and clear. “He promised he would veto the original DREAM Act if elected; he believes Arizona, the state that empowered police officers to ask anyone for immigration papers, should be a ‘model’ for the nation; and he thinks the undocumented should ‘self-deport,'” Reyes says. “Romney’s problem with Latinos is entirely of his own making.”

Obama, meanwhile, has called attacks from the right on his failure to get comprehensive immigration reform passed, as he promised to do in his 2008 campaign, “hypocrisy” (Politico). “The only reason we do not have a law right now that has provided a citizenship not just for DREAM Act kids but for folks who are here, are law-abiding citizens, is because the Republicans have consistently demogogued the issue and have blocked action in Congress,” Obama said recently. The president also called Romney’s support for the Arizona law “very troublesome” (Reuters).

A Washington Examiner editorial says that though Obama is promising to get to immigration reform early in his second term, these are the same promises Latino voters heard in 2008. “Perhaps Hispanic voters — at least the ones who consider immigration reform important — will take Obama’s promise seriously, and keep playing Charlie Brown the field goal kicker to Obama’s Lucy,” the Examiner says. “Then again, perhaps they will look at what happened to Obama’s first promise and catch on to the fact that they are being played.”

For more on the candidates’ stances, check out CFR’s Issue Tracker on the Candidates and Immigration.

Suggested Other Reading:

CFR’s Edward Alden says the Obama administration has been working to enforce laws passed by the Bush administration and taking steps to loosen procedures for undocumented immigrants with relatives who are citizens.

As discussion of the plight of undocumented immigrants becomes a campaign issue, more and more young people in the United States illegally are “coming out,” writes Julia Lurie in The Atlantic.

–Contributing Editor Gayle Putrich and Senior Editor Toni Johnson

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