Opinion: DREAM Act: Obama says, 'Yes' and Romney says, "No"

The differences between the two men on immigration couldn’t be clearer. Photo: Mitt Romney and President Obama face-off on immigration

WASHINGTON, August 13, 2012 — It is obvious where President Obama stands on the DREAM Act, the legislation that would give children brought here by their illegal immigrant parents the ability to become legal resident.

He supports it whole-heartedly, seeing it as a way of not punishing the children for their parents’ actions, giving them a leg up on the American dream.

In fact, the reason that the President decided to stop deporting undocumented youth was because Republicans have blocked the passage of the DREAM Act.

“In the face of a Congress that refuses to do anything on immigration…, I will take action where I can,” Obama told the National Association of Latino Elected Officials (NALEO) in June.

He then added, “It is long past time, we gave them [undocumented young people] a sense of hope.”

The DREAM Act failed to get the necessary votes to become law in 2010, thanks to Republican elected representatives to Congress, who at one time supported the Act only to later see that the measure went down in defeat.

The legislation passed the House and had majority support of 55 members in the U.S. Senate, only failing to pass thanks to a Republican filibuster.

“We should have passed the DREAM Act a long time ago. The only thing that changed was politics,” explained Obama.

U.S. border fence patrol between Mexico and U.S.

However, the President did have another arrow in his quiver. Using executive power, he was able to implement what some called DREAM Lite.

Starting on Wednesday, August 15, DREAMers (as undocumented youth call themselves) can begin applying to stay in the U.S. without fear of deportation, if they meet certain government requirements.

Naturally Republican are harshly critical of the President’s directive. But at a press conference on August 2, Congressman Luis Gutierrez, spoke about those who are against the DREAM Act, saying, “There are always those that are going to question, ‘I got it, why should you get it?’” Gutierrez said at a press conference. “That has happened to African Americans in their fight for civil rights, to women in the suffrage movement, to those with disabilities, to those working for marriage equality. They’re always, ‘Oh, I have these rights, I wonder why you should get them.’”

So exactly what did Romney say about President Obama’s directive deferring deportment of about a million undocumented youth? According to Politifact.com, “Romney’s answer to a voter on Dec. 31, 2011, in Le Mars, Iowa, who asked if he would veto the DREAM Act if Congress passed it:

“The answer is yes. I’m delighted with the idea that people who come to this country and wish to serve in the military can be given a path to become permanent residents in this country. Those who serve in our military and fulfill those requirements, I respect and acknowledge that path. For those that come here illegally, the idea of giving them in-state tuition credits or other special benefits I find to be the contrary to the idea of a nation of law.

“If I’m the president of the United States I want to end illegal immigration so that we can protect legal immigration. I like legal immigration.”“

Romney has also said that he would not endorse Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio’s proposal, a slightly altered DREAM Act, although he thought there some commendable provisions in it and he would study it further. Which Cuban-American Rubio did, pulling it out of consideration in the Senate when it was apparent Republicans didn’t like it either.

Senator Marco Rubio (D-Fla) stumping for Romney in Las Vegas AP

So what can Dreamers expect if President Romney takes office in January 2013?  Simple: he said he would veto it.

At the same time, during the Republican primary, Romney pounced on Texas Governor Rick Perry for his support of the DREAM Act, labeling it a “magnet for illegal immigration.”

We can only suppose that he thinks their parents came to this country cradling small children and babies in their arms, risking life and limb, not to escape economic hardship back home, but to make sure their kids become U.S. citizens.

During the Tampa primary debate, Romney said the answer to the illegal immigration problem is  self-deportation:

“The answer is self-deportation,” Romney said during the debate, “which is people deciding they can do better by going home because they can’t find work here, because they don’t have legal documentation to allow them to work here.”

Which doesn’t sound like much of an answer since most undocumented workers won’t opt for that as long as they can find jobs and their families are here putting down roots.

Romney once supported the 2007 immigration reform act, creating a way to achieve citizenship for illegal immigrants However, as candidate Romney, he has since denounced it, calling it an “amnesty plan.” He has argued, “Amnesty is a magnet. Programs that have said that if people who come here illegally are going to get to stay illegally for the rest of their life, that’s going to only encourage more people to come here illegally.”

Romney at the Reagan Library last year insisted, “We’ve got to have a fence or the technologically approved system to make sure we know who’s coming into the country, No.1. No. 2, we ought to have enough agents to secure that fence and to make sure that people coming over are caught.”

Obama’s position on a bigger, longer fence? “They’ll [Republicans] want a higher fence. Maybe they’ll need a moat. Maybe they want alligators in the moat. They’ll never be satisfied….That’s politics.”

No word yet from Romney on the alligators.

It will be interesting to compare the two men at this fall’s presidential debates when they go toe to toe, sparring over domestic issues. Immigration will be a sure-fire question, one that will ignite even further wrangling and is sure to further define their positions as the lines in the political sand harden.

To contact Catherine Poe, see above. Her work appears in Ad Lib at the Communities @ WashingtonTimes.com. She can also be heard on Democrats for America’s Future. She is also a contributor to broadcast, print and online media. 

This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ WashingtonTimes.com. Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.

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Catherine Poe

Catherine was named one of the top Progressives in Maryland along with Senator Barbara Mikulski and Congresswoman Donna Edwards. She has been a guest of President Obama in the Rose Garden.

As past president of Long Island NOW, she worked to reform women's prisons in New York, open the construction trades to women, change laws to safeguard battered women, and protect the rights of rape victims. 

Long active in Democratic politics, she served as the presidentof the Talbot Democrats in Maryland for six years and fought to getthe Health Care Reform bill passed.

Catherine has been published in a diverse range of newspapers and magazines, including Newsday, Star Democrat, Rocky Mountain News, Yellowstone News, and the Massachusetts Review.

If Catherine has learned anything over the years it is that progressive change does not come easily, but in baby steps. 

Contact Catherine Poe


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