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Mitt Romney Will Not Continue Deferred Action If Elected; What Does that Mean for DREAMers?

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Immigration was not mentioned in last night’s first presidential debate. But, the game-changer had already happened the day before, on Tuesday of this week when Mitt Romney announced that he will in fact end Obama’s deferred action for DREAMers program upon taking office.

It’s a huge deal.

Reporters, pundits, and immigration activists have been asking Romney for months what he planned to do with the policy.  When Romney went on Univision last month, host Jorge Ramos asked him not once but four times—yes or no—whether he would get rid of the program.  And before this week, all Romney had really said was that he would replace it with a “permanent solution” on immigration—without explaining what that solution would be or how Romney planned to pass it through Congress.

But that changed on Tuesday.  First, Romney told the Denver Post:

the people who received the special visa that the president has put in place, which is a two-year visa, should expect that the visa would continue to be valid.

Though he was incorrect—the deferred action program is not a visa—it was the first indication that a President Romney would recognize deferred action status, leading commentators to opine that perhaps Romney was finally softening his hardline immigration stances after all.

And then came the bombshell.

The Boston Globe followed up, wanting to clarify Romney’s position.  Their find:

Responding to a Globe request to clarify Romney’s statement to the Denver Post, Romney’s campaign said he would honor deportation exemptions issued by the Obama administration before his inauguration but would not grant new ones after taking office.

Obama’s deferred action program only began a month and a half ago—and so far about 200 DREAMers have received their work permits.  If we assume that Romney wins the November election, and if we guesstimate that the deferred action program will grant 100,000 work permits by that time, that means a mere fraction of the 1.4 million DREAMers eligible for the program will be able to benefit before Romney closes the window off.  For young, aspiring citizens whose lives would be changed by the work permits and temporary protection from deportation that deferred action brings, that’s devastating.  That’s why our Executive Director, Frank Sharry, made it clear that “a vote for Romney is a vote against the DREAMers.”

United We DREAM’s Lorella Praeli expressed a similar view:

Undocumented youth leaders said they were dismayed by Mr. Romney’s turnaround. “Dreamers across the nation are disappointed to learn that if elected to the presidency, Governor Mitt Romney would dismantle the Dreamer deferred action policy,” Lorella Praeli, a leader of the United We Dream Network, said Wednesday. She was referring to a group of young undocumented immigrants who call themselves Dreamers, after a bill called the Dream Act.

Romney’s new stance still leaves important questions unanswered.  If he is elected, should DREAMers rush to get their applications in during the last few months of the Obama presidency?  Or will the information they reveal be vulnerable under a Mitt “the answer is self-deportation” Romney administration?  What happens if Romney is unable to get that “permanent solution” to immigration he keeps (not) talking about through Congress?  Will he enact a deferred action program of his own?  Or let young people who have lived here nearly their entire lives, who are American in all but name, be deported? Those are some very serious concerns that require very specific answers. And specific answers are not something we’ve been getting from Romney.