Chasing Romney Excerpt: The Politics of DACA
There were tears in offices and on streets the country over, organizers who had been pushing for months, years, decades, finally seeing something of it; FAIR and other organizations across the country were shocked and began instantly crafting talking points about constitutionality, threatening lawsuits, pumping information into Republican mailboxes about their outrage, wailing and gnashing their teeth; People who had lived at the margins of society were offered the everyday opportunities people like me have always had and taken for granted that allowed us to drive over to work and keep ourselves afloat; A few young students stuck in corporate dungeons/privatized deportation centers just had the law which held them there changed and would receive a get-out-of-jail-free card; President Obama unilaterally passed the DREAM Act via a Department of Homeland Security policy shift.
This policy is about prioritizing who is going to have precious government resources wasted on deporting them. Obama’s action will grant working papers to undocumented youth who qualify, as well as offering them deferred action. Along with the working papers comes a Social Security number and driver’s licenses. These will all make huge differences in the lives of those affected; it will allow them to take part in the U.S. economy, which they are typically pushed to the margins of.
Aside from one of Tucker Carlson’s bloggers interrupting the President, the announcement went smoothly. Within hours, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer donned her finest Droopy Dog sag-mask to call Obama’s announcement “outrageous.” She droned on about legal immigration and understanding why people want to come, claiming that we were the most generous country in the world for immigration (meaning she’s either lying or stupid). She went on about the costs of implementing Obama’s order (though not on money saved to stop deportations, and I’ve heard several stories of guys in comas being airlifted to Mexico on the taxpayer dime).
Brewer talked about border security and dangerous smugglers, neglecting to mention it was largely our failed immigration and drug policy that created black market profits high enough that smugglers go out to buy the big guns (usually available under the counter around the border from Second Amendment enthusiasts) for their drug/human trafficking run. She must know that the people who qualify were the children who were terrified by the horrible things they saw in that dangerous desert in the stories she hears, but she doesn’t care.
Brewer decried Obama’s actions as an executive fiat designed to give back door amnesty to nearly one million people, claiming “most importantly, this unilateral act is a pre-emptive strike on the United States Supreme Court in its decision on Senate Bill 1070.” She is right on one aspect of the issue: it will put DREAMers beyond the reach of Joe Arpaio, even when armed with SB 1070. She’s also right that this coming about a week before SB 1070 smacks the Latino community across the face is going to hurt Romney’s chances, giving him a rougher week with Latinos than he had with gays when his bullying, commencement speech at Liberty University and energized Republican gay rhetoric all hit within a few days of each other, reminding gays why they want to vote for Obama. She’s wrong on it being all about SB 1070 though; it’s more about Rubio.
Marco Rubio had been scrambling to get enough support in the House to pass his bill, and now the boulder he’s been pushing uphill has split in two and rolled back down the hill. He could practically hear people asking “What Marco Rubio bill? Is that like the President’s DREAM Act?” That’s probably why he decided against sponsoring the bill after Obama’s announcement.
Rubio is the fastest-rising Hispanic star in the Republican Party and Mitt Romney’s best chance to appeal to Latino voters, and he just got his momentum swept out from under him. His bill was scheduled to come out in June, and it seemed that he’d have it out within the next week or so. For Rubio to avoid having his “DREAM Act light” murdered in committee by House Judiciary Committee head Lamar Smith, he would have to make deals like including E-Verify or increased, military-style policing at the borders, neither of which the Latino community want, but neither of which are included in Obama’s order. Obama’s policy wouldn’t offer everything that Rubio’s bill probably would have, such as being able to visit their families back in their countries of origin, however, it would let them work and live without the constant threat of deportation, untied to any right-wing offsets.
Rubio calls this policy an unconstitutional, short term solution, and who can blame him? He’s worked his ass off, put his reputation on the line, and took a shot at mixed-status families with the tax credit to establish a bit of conservative credibility before his big leap and now he’s been scooped on the golden opportunity he’s fought to create for himself. Immigration was Rubio’s ticket to the nomination in 2016, the golden Republican who could appeal to Latinos. Without this, all his tax credit will do is buy him marginal street cred with Chamber of Commerce-style Republicans who want taxes cut and don’t care what happen in mixed-status communities. You can’t run on that.
Obama’s policy shift is exactly what the Republican party didn’t need right now. Obama’s Latino numbers are as high as they’ve ever been, placed at sixty-eight percent vs. twenty-four percent according to a recent Latino Decision poll before the announcement. This number is set to jump at the news, while SB 1070’s Supreme Court decision is set to fall like a hammer.
It’s rare that something is such a good move that it doesn’t matter that it’s clearly very strategic political pandering. MSNBC lit up, with commentator after commentator announcing that Obama may be pandering a bit, but finally the politics had put him in a position where doing the right thing was also doing the political thing. This is at least partially thanks to DREAMer organizations like United We Dream, DreamActivist, and advocate organizations like America’s Voice, who pushed the politics to the right place.
Latinos have been overwhelmingly leaning towards Obama, but not particularly hard. This was largely a product of a Republican primary during which Mitt was forced to the right on immigration again and again: on SB 1070, the notorious racial profiling law in Arizona (and similar laws in states like Alabama) that have been estimated to cost the states billions, he called it a “model for the nation;” he promised he would veto the DREAM Act, a law which enjoys a ninety-one percent approval rating according to Latino Decisions and is very well known in the Latino community; his alternative to the DREAM Act is “Self-Deportation,” where he seizes control of local laws to deny undocumented immigrants as many government services as possible. These are all terrible stances, but Obama had been deporting record numbers of immigrants, not exactly pushing Latino communities into his arms. This could be one of the reasons why, according to a recent Wall Street Journal poll, only sixty-eight percent of Latinos were enthusiastic about voting, as compared to eighty-one percent of the general public. This executive order is a game changer.
While this may not make a large difference in the Obama vs. Romney numbers overall, this will highly energize the Latino base. With articles like “Yo Decido” demonstrating the power of the Latino vote on the cover of TIME Magazine, it’s hard to see the downside of this move for either Obama or the Latino rights movement. The right wing of the immigration debate has yet to react to this, but Obama knows that he wasn’t going to win anti-immigrant organizations like FAIR anyway.
With this policy change, Obama is energizing the Latino base, which is exactly what he needs to do in Latino-rich swing states. Riding on stories like “Yo Decido,” everyone who’s been paying attention knows that Latinos are the group that everyone needs to court if they want any hope of seeing the inside of the White House outside of a tour group. It’s hard to imagine Mitt Romney being able to turn a 180 and Etch-A-Sketch his way to a policy which offers even half of what Obama is currently giving to the DREAMers. Even if he went boa constrictor, unhinged his jaw and swallowed all his words on immigration, my bet would be that he’d pick up a couple of Cubans, but even those guys are happy for the children they coach on their kid’s soccer team, their classmates and the friends they grew up speaking a slightly different dialect of Spanish who just got status.
The early indication of this sweeping immigration statement, which really boils down to common sense, is that all is going incredibly well politically. There are a few Republicans lining up to challenge it legally, which will instantly turn toxic for the national election. I’m not sure if there’s a strong enough Republican establishment to reel these local lunatics in, and I’d wager that a few of them will make the party look pretty bad before the election is over. According to a Bloomberg National Poll, sixty-four percent of likely voters said they approved of Obama’s decision, while independent voters approved by a slightly larger margin of sixty-six percent. A poll released by Latino Decisions and America’s Voice found Latino voters in swing states were more enthusiastic to vote for Obama. It’s still a close race, which is a bit sad considering, but Obama is kicking ass with exactly the guys who he needs to be. Romney has money, but there are just some things money can’t buy. For everything else, there’s “dark money.”
While who people vote for is such a complex question, largely based upon marketing and perceptions, any Hispanic who doesn’t consider themselves a businessman first and Latino further down the line AND buys into Romney being better on business would probably vote for Obama. The Republican field gave a verbal beating to Latinos during the primary, the rhetoric being pretty harsh against anyone who’s brown and grew up speaking Spanish because the dog whistles shriek for them when they’re driving through Arizona also.
From Santorum applauding Arpaio, the man who Jorge Ramos dubbed “the face of racism in America,” to Romney’s constant immigration gaffs and checkered past, vetoing his own state of Massachusetts’ DREAM Act for in-state tuition, Republicans have consistently alienated their Latino base. For the Republican Latino vote, Obama’s shift in policy was the final nail in the coffin, and the reason Romney will likely be kicking himself come November.