Dreaming With Risks

By Miguel Perez

August 21, 2012 6 min read

When thousands of young people come out of the undocumented-immigrants' closet and reveal all their well-kept secrets to the federal government in the next few weeks, are they taking a risk for relying on a temporary reprieve from President Barack Obama?

When Obama's two-year "deferred action" expires, what happens if we have a new president?

After all, when Obama announced his new policy two months ago, he warned that, "This is not amnesty. This is not immunity. This is not a path to citizenship. It's not a permanent fix."

In fact, it is a bold and controversial policy change designed to bypass the obstructionist Republican Congress and to make the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act at least a partial reality.

It doesn't give them a path to citizenship, but it allows "dreamers" 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.

Yet, since it is only a change in policy, instead of law, can their dream become a nightmare?

Those are the questions that will keep nagging some 1.7 million young immigrant dreamers who are expected to take advantage of Obama's offer — and thus hang their own future on the president's re-election.

Is this an election year ploy to win Latino votes? Or is it a sign that at least the Democratic political establishment is finally recognizing our electoral power and becoming more responsive to our needs? Of course, it's both!

They may not be eligible to vote, but there are 1.7 million young people out there who suddenly have a huge stake in these presidential and congressional elections. And there are millions of Latino voters who sympathize with their cause.

If Obama were re-elected, even if he couldn't get Congress to pass the DREAM Act and make these changes permanent, surely he would extend his temporary executive order for at least a couple more years. But if Romney were elected, after having vowed to veto the DREAM Act and after selecting a running mate who voted against it in the House of Representatives, would he rescind Obama's executive order? And if there were a more conservative Congress, how many more anti-immigrant laws would they ask President Romney to sign?

Two years from now, when many of these young people will be legally employed — paying taxes and fueling our economy — would Romney dare kick them to the curb to follow the draconian agenda of the immigrant bashers to whom he has pandered so much this year? Would these young people then lose their work permits? Would they again be subject to deportation? And wouldn't they be more exposed to federal authorities?

We simply don't know.

If there is one thing that is admirable about Romney, it has to be his ability to remain in contention while being so vague on most issues. How can so many people be willing to vote for him when we know so little about what he intends to do? When he has a history of standing on both sides of so many issues, how do we know which Romney to believe?

We know he doesn't like Obama's policies, but we don't know his solutions!

Yet he goes around basically telling us that we should trust him because he knows what to do. And nowhere is this condescending attitude more visible than in the Romney campaign for Latinos. Unfortunately, when they address the Latino community, Romney and his surrogates speak to us as if we were stupid, constantly claiming that Romney will have his own "long-term" immigration reform plan, as if those two words were enough to inspire Latino confidence in their candidate.

Of course, you would think that if they had such a plan — and they believed it would be appealing to Latinos — they would explain it in detail. But they don't.

Even reacting to Obama's "deferred action" executive order, Romney was artfully uncommitted. "An executive order is, of course, just a short-term matter," Romney said. "It can be reversed by subsequent presidents."

But you didn't expect him to tell us what he would do, right? If Romney took a clear position on something, he wouldn't be himself!

When Latino Republican surrogates speak to their community about Romney, unsuccessfully hiding their squirming faces, you see them struggling to say as little as possible, because they clearly have so little to say about what their candidate would do for their community.

All they tell us is that their immigration solution would be "long term," and given the many recent GOP hate-mongering attitudes, they could be promising to administer long-term agony for undocumented immigrants. And for Latinos who could be racially profiled, perhaps they plan long-term harassment in "show me your papers" states.

We simply don't know. Are they talking about long-term compassion and inclusion or punishment and discrimination? And isn't it amazing that a presidential candidate can be so vague and superficial that we even have to ask these questions?

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.

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