Why the Marco Rubio DREAM Act Doesn’t Matter

After the Republican party has worked heavily over the last 10 years or so to alienate anyone darker than a vanilla ice cream cone from the party, Mitt Romney is pretty obviously casting about to try to get more than 10 Latino votes this year.  The most obvious of those efforts?  Talking about making Marco Rubio the VP nominee, and Rubio’s new DREAM Act proposal.  I gather some in the Democratic sphere are getting nervous and think this might actually work, but they shouldn’t be.  Rubio’s bill isn’t going to change anything.  For a few reasons:

1) Most advocates hate this bill.  The traditional DREAM Act has provided a path to citizenship for undocumented students who came to the US as children and are pursuing a degree or in the military.  Rubio’s bill would just give them permanent green card status, unless they found a different way to become a citizen (like getting hitched.)  This doesn’t work even as a stop gap, because it would make getting an actual path to citizenship through Congress even harder.  It’s not at all what people are asking for, and quite frankly rather insulting. I have heard that some advocacy groups are playing around with whether or not they could support it, but all people I know who care (either professional advocates or people in the immigrant community) view this bill with something between derisive contempt and no thought at all.  And it doesn’t help that they mostly think it’s an insincere move that won’t go anywhere.  Which brings me to Reason #2.

2) This bill isn’t going anywhere.  “‘If the concept as he has laid it out is translated into decent legislation and he brings Republican support to the table, it’s a game changer,’ said Frank Sharry, executive director of the pro-immigration reform group America’s Voice.”  And if I sprouted wings I could fly.  There’s not going to be any Republican support. An entire wing of the Republican party is dedicated to stopping brown people, women and gays from getting any more uppity.  Heck, what arguably first tanked Rick Perry’s candidacy was saying that immigrants are people.  Boehner has already said this bill is DOA.  The Republicans can’t even get together on wanting a basic, functioning government.  Add to that the difficulties of getting anything big passed in an election year, and there’s not going to be any support for a DREAM Act, no matter how much you water it down.

3) The bill is bad policy.  Leaving aside politics, this bill is objectively bad policy.  The immigration system in this country is a mess, in part, because it is a confusing, convoluted system, with tons of different rules for different people.  The last thing it needs is a whole new class of legal non-citizens.  Plus, this would still leave us with the problem of essentially stateless people.  Unable to become citizens of the United States, but so far removed from their country of birth that they’re hardly citizens there.  And, as this bill would cut the legs out from under any possibility of a new, real DREAM Act, it would freeze that policy in place.  Obama has already instructed ICE to halt deportations of students who were brought here as children, and possibly provide them with work permits, essentially enacting DREAM as best we can without legislation.   This bill is a step up from that, as legal presence wouldn’t depend quite so much on if your ICE agent was having a bad day, but still wouldn’t do what DREAM is meant to do: allow people who have lived in the United States for almost their entire lives, were brought here through no fault of their own, and are being educated in the US or serving in the military a path to citizenship.  Rubio’s bill is a DREAM Act without the DREAM.

4) Romney needs more than a DREAM.   Romney is running as the Republican nominee.  The Republican party has put every effort into making it clear that they hate Latinos.  Romney said earlier this year that he wants immigrants to self-deport.  There’s support in Republican legislatures across the country for incredibly harsh immigration policy.  This isn’t going to change any of that.  You can only etch-a-sketch away so much, you know?  Michael Tomasky is right –Romney just isn’t going to pull in the Latino vote.  He just won’t.  And if he’s to have a prayer in the world of doing so, he needs to offer more than kind-of, sort-of, not not-supporting a measure halfway towards the baseline of pretending you care about immigrants.

Barack Obama has not been the best advocate for immigrant rights.  I’d say he’s actually been a huge disappointment.  But Romney’s best hope is that Latinos and immigration advocates stay home.  Because they’re not going to vote for him.

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