WASHINGTON, June 16, 2012 — It’s highly unlikely anything, much less the right thing, will get passed by the GOP-dominated House or the grid-locked Democratic Senate. So President Obama stepped up and issued an executive order that bypasses Congress and allows more than 800,000 young people to stay here legally without fear of deportation. It’s the DREAM Act lite.
These are the children of undocumented or illegal immigrants who were brought here as kids, raised here, went to public school here, and are part of our society. Yet they are always looking over their shoulders in fear of being deported. Until Friday.
The executive order is far from a perfect solution and is not the DREAM Act that the Republican senators filibustered to death in 2010, even though it was the one-time brainchild of Utah’s Republican Senator Orrin Hatch. But that was BBO, Before Barack Obama. Now anything he or the Democrats propose is poison.
So what’s a president to do? After all, Obama did make the DREAM Act part of his campaign promise four years ago. Instead he has ended up deporting young people. In fact he has deported more illegal immigrants than any president since the 1950s, over 1.1 million since he took office.
Obama’s Stop Gap Plan
Now the DREAM Act is basically dead in the water and here we are in another election year. So Obama did something only presidents can do. He ordered the Department of Homeland Security to stop deporting undocumented immigrants who came to this country before 16, have resided in the U.S. for a five years or more, and are in college or are high school grads or serve in the military. Plus they must be under 30 and have no criminal record.
It does not give amnesty (as President Reagan did) or a path to citizenship, and as the President said, “It is not a permanent fix.”
But it does pave the way for young people who have gone to our public schools to become participating and productive members of society. They can go to college and apply for financial aid to help underwrite their tuition, they can be legally employed, and they can apply for a driver’s license so they get to their jobs or classes.
The big drawback is that the order is in effect only for two years and thus would have to be renewed by the next president, whether it is Obama or Mitt Romney. Or if Congress stops having hissy fits and passes the DREAM Act. Right now, Florida Senator (and possibly Romney’s Veep pick) Marco Rubio has a bill he wants to get through Congress, which is very similar to the DREAM Act. Could he? In this climate?
So where does Mitt Romney (who favors self-deportation, whatever that means) stand on this issue? After he finished castigating Obama for his bold move, Romney was asked if he were elected president would he renew the executive order to stop the deportation of undocumented immigrant children. He declined to answer. That answer says it all. Good luck, Marco, getting on the ticket. Looks like you are too radical for Mitt.
Outrage on the Right
However, the real howls of outrage erupted from the Right, as was to be expected. They accused Obama of everything from exploiting children to presidential overreach to political pandering to voter conspiracy.
The uproar started in the Rose Garden as the President made his announcement. A reporter from the conservative website The Daily Caller interrupted the President as he was speaking, yelling out, “Mr. President, why do you favor foreign workers over Americans?”
The disrespect and rudeness caused other reporters to shush him as did the President who reproved him, saying, “Excuse me, sir. It’s not time for questions, sir. Not while I am speaking.”
Following his announcement, Obama gave the reporter the courtesy (something the reporter didn’t show) of answering his question, adding, “This is the right thing to do for the American people.”
So it’s not surprising that two Arizona pols were at it again in front of the TV cameras, wagging their fingers and dressing down the President: Governor Jan Brewer and Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
Even Senator Hatch, who now tries to separate himself from his original DREAM Act and even opposed it in 2010, since it displeases the Right Wing of his party as he seeks his seventh term in the Senate, rebuked President Obama, saying, “The fact that the president would use children as an election-year ploy is offensive.”
And then there was every Liberal’s favorite Right Winger, Rep. Allen West (R-Fla.), who believes Obama has an election fraud scheme up his sleeve with this new order: “Is this one of those backdoor opportunities to allow people in the next five months to get the opportunity to vote? Will we see Janet Napolitano and the president come out with a new edict that says ‘since we allow this people to be here legally, we’re now going to allow them to have the opportunity to vote?’”
Smart Politics or Economically Sound?
So the question is, was this a political move by President Obama? The answer is, sure it was. A smart one too. Cynical? Probably. Needed? Yep, for three reasons.
First, this is only a baby step forward, but it is a step. And since the DREAM Act has a snowball’s chance on a Florida beach and is long overdue, it was time Obama did what Congress is unwilling to do.
Second, the Hispanic vote, which went for Obama by 67 percent last time around, is eroding bit by bit and yet Latino voters are squarely behind the DREAM Act. In fact, the American people are over overwhelmingly behind it.
Third, the DREAM Act (the original one) would help reduce the federal deficit by $2.2 billion over ten years, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.
At the rate we are going, we will have a shortfall of college educated workers by 2025 and with nearly 32% of science and engineering grads being Hispanic, DREAMers would be a boon, not a drag on the U.S. economy. In fact it’s estimated that DREAMers, over the course of their working lives, would create between $1.4 and $3.6 trillion in taxable income.
These young illegal immigrants are a valuable resource, one that we cannot ignore. One that President Obama cannot ignore, politically or economically.
And neither can Mitt Romney and the Republicans. They do so at their peril.
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.
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