DREAM Act: Latino vote can make the difference this election

If Latinos are to become a force to be reckoned with, they must turn out in big numbers on November 6. Photo: Ivonne Abramovic call Hispanic voters in the Florida GOTV drive AP

WASHINGTON, November 4, 2012 — If Latinos want to see the DREAM Act become a reality and not a pipedream, then they must do more than tell pollsters they support President Obama’s bid for a second term. They have to get themselves to the polls and vote for him.

Pollsters say that 70% of Latinos, who identify themselves as likely voters, say they will vote for President Obama compared to 25% for Mitt Romney. But will they show up at the polls?

If they are to become a force to be reckoned with, then Latinos must turn out in huge numbers, not only for the President but also for themselves. The stakes are high.

Each candidate has stated where he stands on the DREAM Act, immigration, deportation, and the border with Mexico. Sometimes it comes down to just one state that symbolizes just how hard the fight for equality really is. In this case, that state is Maryland.

Maryland’s DREAM Act Is On the Ballot

Maryland’s DREAM Act was about to become reality and not just a dream, but then it ended up on the ballot for voters to decide, where it could  become a bad dream if voters reject it at the ballot box.

A left-leaning, definitely Blue state with a Democratic legislature and a Democratic governor , legislators passed its version of Obama’s DREAM Act in 2011. It didn’t happen overnight, but pressure by Latinos and supporters of undocumented children of illegal immigrants from college presidents to small business owners, finally got the measure passed only to see it endangered by a call for a referendum.

President Obama at Univision’s Latino forum AP

Immediately after the legislators voted, citizens swarmed their neighborhoods and strip malls, petitions in hand to get enough signatures that could put a stop to the DREAM Act by putting it to a vote by the electorate.

Why the uproar to expand educational opportunities to a small number of people? Simply put, Maryland’s DREAM Act would allow the children who were brought here by their immigrant parents, who themselves came here illegally, to file in-state or in-county tuition at Maryland colleges.

The undocumented students, however, would have had to attended a Maryland high school for three years and show proof that their parents or they themselves have paid taxes.

As the only state that has allowed the public to address the issue, a Maryland victory would show Congress that “not only did the sky not fall, [but] generally it was well-received” by the general population, and not just in the immigrant and Latino communities, explained Clarissa Martinez de Castro with the National Council of LaRaza.

Maryland is basically the testing ground for this landmark legislation.

Stakes Are High for Latinos

This is why it is vital that Latinos, not only in Maryland, but everywhere show up to vote in this election. Their future as Americans is at stake.

When the Republican Congress thwarted the passage of the national DREAM Act, President Obama swung into action this past summer by announcing a policy that would allow many young undocumented immigrants to apply into a program that gives them permission to live and work in the U.S. for the next two years without worrying about being deported.

However, there was not a surge of young people applying due to the uncertainty of the presidential election. Yes, if Obama wins, he would renew what many call the DREAM Act Lite, but if Governor Mitt Romney wins, it is much more doubtful as is the passage of the original DREAM Act through Congress.

Where Does Romney Stand?

Romney has publicly stated during the debates he is against the DREAM Act. He later modified his stance somewhat thanks Republican Florida Senator Marco Rubio nudging him. But Romney is the same man who wants to encourage mass self-deportation of illegal immigrants, no matter how long they have resided here or if they have paid their taxes.

Democrats know that Latinos are central to an Obama victory in key states such as Florida, Nevada, Colorado, Ohio, and Virginia. They are truly the tipping point for an Obama win. That means the necessity of massive turnout of Hispanic voters, close to the 70% who say they support him.

While many Hispanics are dissatisfied that President Obama didn’t keep his campaign promise to make a concerted push for legal status for the 11 illegal immigrants now living here, he has said he felt he had to get the economy on a steady path to recovery first, both with the stimulus and Obamacare bills.

Then in the last two years, he had an obstructionist Congress. Whether you accept his excuse or not, there will be no immigration reform without Obama. In fact, under Romney you just may see one giant push by Congress to foster Arizona-like laws on the entire country.

It all comes down to Latinos flexing their political muscles. They could have a compelling   impact on the next decade as we move from a white majority country to a Minority majority America. But if they do not vote, they will not influence the direction of the country, much less laws that affect them and their families.

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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