Photo: Deferred Action Program
This week Mitt Romney said that he would honor Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA and use the 2-year window to work on immigration reform. DACA is the program which allows undocumented youth who were brought to the United States to remain without worry about deportation and obtain work permits. Although this sounds like good news for DREAMers, it is clear Mitt Romney continues to ignore the more important question: will he continue the program beyond the two years or is it a ploy from a Romney campaign still desperate to appeal to Latino voters.
“Unfortunately, this is another fuzzy Romney statement that does not provide clarity for the Latino electorate nor assurance to undocumented student. Most importantly, he’s still has not disavowed his extreme tea party positions on immigration, specially his promise to veto the DREAM Act.” said Cesar Vargas, a DREAMer from the DRM Action Coalition.
Throughout the primaries, Romney jumped to the right on issue after issue. He claimed that Rick Perry had no brain because he signed in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants, applauded SB 1070 as a model for the nation and came out with a “self-deportation” plan of making DREAMers miserable until they just go away. “These are not the actions of someone who cares,” said Erika Andiola a DREAM Act activist from Arizona.
More alarming is that Romney does not well understand the immigration system as he called DACA a visa. “The people who have received the special visa that the president has put in place, which is a two-year visa, should expect that the visa would continue to be valid.” DACA is not a “visa”. President Obama’s June 15 order is an exercise of prosecutorial discretion to not pursue enforcement actions against undocumented youth. The lack of understanding shows that Romney would likely defer to anti-immigrant advisors like Kris Kobach, author of SB1070.
Like on every issue, Romney remained as vague as he could on the issue so as not to alienate anyone, claiming that he wouldn’t have to do anything on DACA if he became president because it would be replaced by a long-term solution in congress. The problem with that is the Congress has only gotten less rational since the last time the Republican side filibustered the DREAM Act to death. While we appreciate Mitt Romney’s words that he will tackle immigration reform in his first years, he fails to elaborate on his plan to “reform”. Further, a President Romney has to realize that a dysfunctional 113th Congress may prevent him from passing legislation, and is naive to think he can work right away. This further demands a firmer answer on whether he will continue the DACA program beyond the initial two years.
In the end, Romney would most likely do what he’s done all along: say whatever will hurt him least politically. Unfortunately, for him, it is also too late. Anyone who listened to him during the primaries knows that Romney is willing to sacrifice Latino issues and Jon Huntsman was right when he called Romney a “perfectly lubricated weathervane.” DACA is a temporary measure and ultimately the DREAM Act and modernizing our immigration system must be a priority for the next president.