Yesterday, Miami-area high school valedictorian Daniela Pelaez and her sister, Dayana, came to Washington to meet with U.S. Representatives and Senators from Florida. The sisters, both of whom would benefit from the DREAM Act, recently won an administrative reprieve from deportation for two years.
After their meeting with Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) – a cosponsor of the DREAM Act who had personally called Secretary Janet Napolitano to ask the Department of Homeland Security to halt the sisters’ scheduled deportations – he described Daniela and Dayana as “two brave young ladies.”
After their meeting with Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), however, the Senator reiterated his opposition to the DREAM Act. He said the DREAM Act is “the wrong way to do the right thing,” and then went on to suggest that the legislation would “reward or encourage illegal immigration by granting amnesty.”
A recent Fox News Latino/Latin Insights poll found that 90% of Latino voters support the DREAM Act, which they described as “legislation that would provide a path to citizenship for undocumented youths who attend college or serve in the military.” The polling also documented the severe trouble the Republican Party is having in appealing to Latino voters, finding that none of the Republican presidential contenders would receive support from more than 14% of Latino voters in a general election matchup against President Obama. Citing the polling, many leading news commentators and pundits noted that the immigration issue is the single biggest driver of the GOP’s tarnished image among Latino voters.
Clearly, Senator Rubio is out of step with the vast majority of Latino voters by opposing DREAM. Yet the question continues to be ‘why is the Senator opposed?’ He insists it can’t pass because it doesn’t have enough support in Congress. But it doesn’t have enough support in Congress because elected leaders such as Rubio have failed to step up and support it. This is not only a self-fulfilling prophesy, but an opportunity squandered to lead his party in a new direction and begin to repair its fractured relationship with Latino voters.