When President Barack Obama finally realized the dream of thousands of young, undocumented immigrants who long to be Americans last week, he hammered the last nail on Mitt Romney's political coffin.
As if Romney had not done enough to bury his standing among Latinos by vowing to veto the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, Obama made the DREAM Act a virtual reality Friday — and assured himself an overwhelming majority of the Latino vote in November.
Obama's bold and controversial policy change bypasses the obstructionist Republican Congress and partially achieves the goals of the long-stalled legislation aimed at giving a path to citizenship to young, undocumented immigrants who go to college or serve in the military.
Although the president's administrative order doesn't go as far as opening the path to citizenship for these young people, it stops their deportations. And it grants temporary legal residency and work permits to many brilliant students who now finally are free to realize the American dream.
Under Obama's new plan, effective immediately, undocumented immigrants will be able to avoid deportation if they were brought here before they turned 16 and are younger than 30. They must have been in the country for at least five years, have no criminal record, graduated from U.S. high school and enrolled in college courses or served in the military.
In the half-dozen swing states where Latino voter turnout could determine the winner of the presidential election, Obama has re-energized a community that was begging for this kind of bold leadership from the "Si Se Puede/Yes We Can" president.
Was it political? Of course! But what isn't?
It was a brilliant political move by Obama, just like when he came out for gay marriage. But it also was a tremendous victory for those who always insisted that there was more the president could do administratively, by executive order, to ease the pain of young undocumented immigrants. After all, this is the same Obama who had told us that this could not be done without the consent of Congress.
In the end, the "Si Se Puede/Yes We Can" president had to find a way to at least end the persecution of young undocumented immigrants who were brought here by their parents and have been raised as Americans.
Less than five months before the presidential election, it was indeed a huge recognition of the power of the Latino electorate.
The president obviously heard the complaints from Latinos who — in spite of Romney's repulsive rhetoric against undocumented immigrants — still were expressing dissatisfaction with Obama's failure to keep his promise to fix our broken immigration system.
In the Hispanic community, more than competing against Romney, Obama has been competing against his own broken promise.
The White House fear was not that Latinos would vote for Romney — who polls show as the least liked presidential candidate among Latinos in recent history — but that they would be so turned off by Obama's broken promise that they would not vote at all.
And since Obama's re-election may depend on the size of the Latino voter turnout in states such as Nevada, Florida, Colorado, Arizona, Virginia and North Carolina, energizing the Latino vote was essential for the Obama campaign.
Mind you, this policy change doesn't come close to the comprehensive immigration reform Obama promised to drive through Congress. But it will surely drive many more Latinos to vote for him in November.
While Republicans cringe and immigrant bashers are throwing tantrums, all over the country there are some 800,000 young dreamers — children who have lived in fear of deportation — crying tears of joy. And millions of compassionate American voters are taking note.
With a single executive order that will surely be challenged in the courts by fuming right-wing extremists, Obama upstaged even a couple of Latino Republican lawmakers who, without much support from their Republican colleagues, had been floating light versions of the DREAM Act and trying to save the GOP from a record defeat among Latino voters in November.
And Romney, obviously disarmed by Obama's move, is saying as little as possible. Clearly trying to avoid the wrath of the conservative GOP base that was so slow to support him during the primaries, Romney has refused to say whether he would overturn Obama's executive order. He claims we must find the way to solve the status of young people facing deportation, but he doesn't say how.
Romney has nothing to say to Latinos. But Latinos are ready to say adios.
To find out more about Miguel Perez and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.