From now until November, the pro-immigrant movement has two goals: organizing to defeat politicians who stand against us, and getting ready for DAPA and the expansion of DACA.
With the rise of Donald Trump, the immigration debate among Republican political “leaders” has been reduced to the level of schoolyard bullies. Who can build the longest wall; who can talk the toughest about immigrants coming to feed their families; who can deport 11 million people and their children the fastest — it’s all been a race to the bottom on the Republican side.
Never mind the fact that the Republican electorate is largely OK with broad legalization; GOP “leaders” are pandering to the lowest common denominator in their Party. That choice will come back to bite them in the general election.
Latino Decisions political scientists calculate that the Republican candidate needs the support of 42–47% of Latino voters in order to win the popular vote in 2016. But 79% of Latino voters have a “very unfavorable” view of Donald Trump, according to recent Latino Decisions polling, and only 4% say they have no opinion. Trump is well-known in the Latino community, and that’s not a good thing for the GOP.
Trump is not the Republicans’ only problem. Two dozen Republican-led governors and attorneys general — with the backing of House Speaker Paul Ryan and the vast majority of congressional Republicans — have made it their mission to deny work permits and opportunities to people we know and love.
Republicans are suing the parents of U.S. citizens. Think about that. Their lawsuit against DAPA and DACA expansion targets the parents of people who can vote — either in this election or the near future. Fifty-seven percent of Latino voters today know someone who is undocumented. This is not an abstract policy issue for many voters, it is deeply personal.
Democrats who support DACA and DAPA have work to do in order to maximize turnout among voters with a stake in this debate. In Nevada, 38% of Latino voters don’t know where Rep. Joe Heck fits on the pro-immigrant to anti-immigrant scale, despite the fact that he voted several times to undercut DAPA and DACA. His opponent in the U.S. Senate race, Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto, posts similar numbers despite clearly coming out on the other side.
While it’s in Heck’s interest to run and hide from his record, Cortez Masto can benefit if she’s able to better define him and herself using their actual immigration positions.
Which leads me to the importance of DAPA and DACA in these elections. Simply put, the policies matter. The lawsuit matters. The political affiliation of the people behind the lawsuit matters. Seventy-four percent of Latino voters say they are less likely to support a Republican in November because of the Party’s opposition to DAPA.
I think that Republicans don’t understand why this issue is so important. It might seem like we’re talking about a simple piece of paper, but it’s a paper that has the power to transform people’s lives. Protection from deportation can lead to a legal work permit, a driver’s license, and finally feeling like a recognized person in society. People won’t have to fear simply driving down the road anymore. They can enjoy their kids, and make plans for the future. Yes, it means more people paying taxes and that’s good for our country. But the benefits of DAPA and DACA are so much more.
The pro-immigrant movement, lead by the Dreamers, won DACA 2012 and the 2014 DAPA and DACA expansion policies through organizing and power.We defended these policies in the courts, and we proved our case. It’s clear that the law is on our side. A bipartisan coalition of labor, law enforcement, business, civil rights, and faith leaders stood with our community because they know these policies are good for families and good for America. Now, it’s up to the Supreme Court and, in particular, Chief Justice John Roberts to remove politics from the judiciary and follow the law.
We’re confident this will happen, and we’re getting ready for DAPA and DACA+ implementation to start this year. The Lorain Ohio Immigrant Rights Association (LOIRA), for example, is holding a vaccine clinic next week so that future DAPA beneficiaries can get the medical records they need and be ready to apply.