Living the DREAM
Even as Americans are starting to see positive results from the Affordable Care Act, another initiative from President Obama kicks in today. Beginning August 15, 2012, young adults who were brought to the United States illegally as children, and who satisfy a number of criteria, can now apply to remain legally in the country for two years. Technically, the applications are to request “deferred action” on considering their cases for deportation.
One of the places these young adults can go to obtain an application is at the website of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
The President announced this program on June 15, saying his administration “will stop deporting and begin granting work permits to younger illegal immigrants who came to the United States as children and have since led law-abiding lives.” Latino voters account for five percent of the adult population in nearly half of U.S. states, and more than ten percent in eleven states. They can be a powerful voting force in swing states like Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico, and Florida.
The President’s change to the implementation of immigration policy was modeled on the proposed Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors, or DREAM Act. Versions of this bill have been floating in Congress for years, most recently passed by the House in the lame-duck session of December, 2010, but dying in the Senate. The bill is popular in many areas of the country — even in Arizona; according to a recent poll, 73 percent of Arizonans support it.
The President is unable to change the law to provide a path to citizenship for children who were brought to the country illegally, as the DREAM Act would have done. But he can (and indeed, must) provide guidance to the Immigration and Naturalization Service for prioritizing which cases of illegal presence need to be prosecuted most (or least) energetically. That is basically what the June 15 announcement did. As of today, somewhere between 800,000 and 1,500,000 people are eligible for this deferment.
Since we are deep into the presidential campaign, it is reasonable to ask how — and if — this change in policy will have an effect on the election. It clearly will not alter who can vote; none of the people who directly benefit from this change in policy are citizens (by definition), which means they can’t vote. It’s unlikely their parents are citizens (in the vast majority of cases, those parents came to the country illegally and brought their children, which is how the people who can apply for a deferment got here), so they can’t vote, either. Nor does this policy provide even any sort of eventual path to citizenship, so none of the beneficiaries under this program will expect to vote at any time in the future .
On the other hand, as mentioned, the DREAM Act is pretty popular, especially among Latino voters. A recent poll, taken before the President’s June 15 announcement, already showed he enjoys overwhelming support among Latinos as compared to former Governor Romney. Both campaigns are targeting Latinos and Hispanics in their advertizing, though there is some indication that the Romney campaign has already accepted they are unlikely to make inroads into the President’s substantial lead.
It seems likely that, particularly in closely-matched swing states, much of the election will be decided by enthusiasm — who comes to the polls. What this change in policy can do is to further energize Hispanic and Latino voters. This can’t help but assist the President. It may be a perfect example of benefiting by doing the right thing — doing well by doing good.
- Young Immigrants Poised for Deportation Deferral Program (nytimes.com)
- Ryan Does Nothing to Bring Women or Latinos to Romney (usnews.com)
- Latino Leaders Encourage Ongoing Political Involvement (theepochtimes.com)
- New hope for young illegal immigrants (cbsnews.com)
- Administration sparing some from deportation (wtvm.com)
- Poll: Obama widens lead among Hispanic voters (thehill.com)
About dcpetterson (187 posts)
D. C. Petterson is a novelist and a software consultant in Minnesota who has been writing science fiction since the age of six. He is the author of A Melancholy Humour, Rune Song and Still Life. He lives with his wife, two dogs, two cats, and a lizard, and insists that grandchildren are the reward for having survived teenagers. When not writing stories or software, he plays guitar and piano, engages in political debate, and reads a lot of history and physics texts—for fun. Follow on Twitter @dcpetterson