If you oppose the DREAM Act, you’re no moderate on immigration. Period. That goes for Governor Rick Perry and Senator Marco Rubio. Both say they Support in-state tuition But oppose the DREAM Act.
That position defies logic. And, it alienates Latinos.
While immigration has emerged as a flashpoint in the Republican presidential primary, the fact remains: not one of the leading candidates supports the DREAM Act.
Traditionally, the DREAM Act was a bi-partisan bill. It was originally authored and introduced by Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT). And when it came up for a vote in December of last year, a total of 15 sitting Republican senators who had supported the DREAM Act in one way or another in the past had a chance to get it across the finish line. But in a sign of just how far right the Republican Party has lurched on immigration issues, only 3 of those 15 Republicans voted for it. Even Senator Hatch scrambled from author to opponent. This, despite support for DREAM from 70% of American voters, including a majority of Republicans. This, despite the support for DREAM from 88% of Latino voters, signifying its emergence as a litmus test for candidates. This, despite the fact that the GOP’s opposition to DREAM is deepening its already deep hole with Latino voters, the fastest-growing segment of the American electorate.
Below is a snapshot on leading 2012 Republicans and their anti-DREAM credentials:
Rick Perry: Despite the recent attacks on Perry’s immigration stance, he is no moderate on immigration. Singing from the GOP’s songbook in opposing DREAM, Perry calls a measure that would give young people who had no say in the decision to come to this country and who consider themselves Americans in all but paperwork “just amnesty.” But doesn’t he take a strong stand backing the opportunities of these same children to attend Texas public universities at the same rates as their fellow high school graduates? Yes. Then why doesn’t he employ the same rationale to say these Texas university graduates should be able to work and serve in the military? It must be Perry’s way of “sticking to principle,” providing a contrast to Romney’s reputation as a flip-flopper who will say anything to get elected. But in doing so, his position defies all principles. Perry supports in-state tuition for immigrant students, yet opposes a federal law that would let them put those college educations to use? It’s simply illogical.
Marco Rubio: Freshman Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) remains a Tea Party favorite and, in the assessment of New Republic columnist Jonathan Cohn and others, a lock to be the Vice Presidential nominee no matter who wins the Republican primary. Part of Rubio’s appeal is his Cuban-American heritage: some believe it will attract Hispanic voters in key swing states. But Rubio has distanced himself from moderate positions adopted as a state legislator and adopted hard-line immigration positions ever since he emerged as a national political figure. Rubio supports the push to pass mandatory E-Verify led by Rep. Lamar Smith, has adopted the mindless Republican mantra of “border security first,” and despite past support for a Florida in-state tuition bill, opposes the federal DREAM Act. “Unfortunately for him and the GOP, Latino voters clearly care more about a candidate’s immigration stance than his or her ethnicity. In the bright lights of a presidential campaign, Rubio’s hard-line stance on immigration will likely become a liability in the eyes of Latino voters, regardless of his own background. As Ruben Navarrette wrote, “Marco Rubio is the Republican Party’s Superman. And, the immigration issue, if not handled correctly, is his kryptonite.”
Mitt Romney: On immigration, Romney has gotten to Perry’s right on immigration – by a half-step – and uses it as a talking point to show he’s more conservative than Perry on some issues. Before he decided to re-position himself for a presidential run, Romney was for comprehensive immigration reform – before he was against it. In 2008, the shape-shifting Romney’s newly-adopted hard line backfired on him, costing crucial Hispanic support in the pivotal Florida primary. Remarkably, once again he is reaching for the hard-right playbook in an attempt to blunt Perry’s support among conservative primary voters – including highlighting his veto of an in-state tuition bill that Romney undoubtedly blocked for his future political purposes. However, racing to the right on immigration directly contradicts the Romney campaign’s attempt to portray their candidate as the Republican candidate best equipped and most electable in a general election race against President Obama.
Among the leaders for the GOP nomination, there are no immigration moderates. None of them support the DREAM Act. None of them. The DREAM Act is a common sense proposal that would enable some of the Latino community’s best and brightest to attend college, serve in the military and earn citizenship. None of them support comprehensive immigration reform, a centrist solution to the nation’s immigration mess. And none of them have the guts to stand up the hardcore nativists in the party the way Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush did.
If GOP strategists hope that Rick Perry and/or Marco Rubio will win the hearts of Latino voters with their support of in-state tuition, they are in for a rude awakening. When it comes to in-state tuition and the DREAM Act, you can’t split the baby — or the student, as the case may be.