Thursday, August 16, 2012

Gov. Romney's Precarious Policy on Immigration/Deferred Action

Sometimes, the Governor's position on immigration (and some other issues as well) reminds me of Heraclitus' famous river (you can never step in the same one twice, because it is always changing). Unfortunately, the Governor may feel like he has stepped in something left behind by his now famous prancing "dressage" horse, Rafalca, everytime he tries to come up with an acceptable position on immigration. I sympathize with him. He pandered to some negative elements on the right (I don't believe the conservative right is inherently or necessarily anti-immigration -- just some elements of it that have reached ascendance in the past few years) during a tough primary fight, and now he is forced to live with those comments and do a bit of horse ballet himself when the issue of immigration comes up.

Here are what positions he has held during this election season: 1. He would veto the Dream Act if it came on his desk (Remember that a majority of both houses of Congress favored it during its most recent introduction into Congress, but was killed by a filibuster in the Senate because the Senate failed to have a "supermajority"). He stated that he supported the Arizona enforcement law and that it should become a "model" for the rest of the country. 3. When asked about solutions to the 11+ million unauthorized immigrants in the country, his "solution" was that they should all "self-deport." The last was presented as some kind of compassionate alternative to mass big brother style raids, imprisonment, and marches to the border in chains at the end of a gun. They can chose to leave on their own terms, and it costs the government less (a "win-win"). Then during the debates in Florida, he indicated he might support some version of the Dream Act tailored to help veterans, and Marco Rubio got to work on his own version of the Dream Act, which was ultimately abandoned. These are terrible positions.

I charitably give him the benefit of the doubt and presume that those positions may have emanated from his association with Kansas' own Secretary of State, Kris Kobach. Sec'y Kobach has proven himself repeatedly to have a tin-ear on immigration issues both with the Supreme Court as well as the general public, but more about Sec'y Kobach in other posts. From last report, Gov. Romney has now, publicly at least, disassociated himself with Sec'y Kobach when it comes to immigration policy issues (that's a good thing).

But where does he go? No doubt, he hopes the issues will go away until sometime after the election. But that hasn't happened, and recent events have left him fumbling for a position that doesn't sound hateful to immigrants (and particularly Latinos) and doesn't reneg on the commitments he made to those who will settle for nothing less than full deportation of "illegals" (family values be damned).

Recent issue # 1. The Dream Act. The real dream act is dead right now in Congress, but the President took the action a few weeks ago of stating that the DHS policy of removing those who would have benefitted from the Dream Act (or a close approximation) is now suspended, and those who qualify from this new policy (called "Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals") can even get work cards while they wait for Congress to give a more permanent resolution to their dilemma. A new form has been issued and applications started being accepted yesterday.  This is a positive action by the administration and supported by many conservative commentators, including folks like George Will.

To date, Gov. Romney has been mostly silent on the issue or has dodged it completely, saying we need a "long term solution" (without saying what the content of that solution should be).. Will he suspend the program if he is elected? No one knows, although he has been asked that question directly and bluntly.  But he has already opposed the Dream Act (as has his VP pick, Paul Ryan), so a good guess is, he might. On the other hand, once hundreds of thousands of Dreamers start applying for this sliver of legal presence in the U.S., I would hope that public pressure against rescinding the program would be too strong to go back to the way it was before. Those eligible for the Deferred Action program have now begun applying for its benefits, even in the face of this uncertain future. But for these Dreamers, that is par for the course. Their entire lives have been ones of uncertainty and courage, caught between the country of their birth, and the country of their life and future.