DREAMing of an honest immigration debate with analyst Arnoldo Torres
Are politicians being serious about immigration reform, or is it just a charade? (Flickr: Anuska Sampedro)
The recent talk about immigration on the campaign trail has been dizzying. From Marco Rubio working on an alternative DREAM Act to Mitt Romney shocking everyone by criticizing President Obama’s immigration record, there is a lot to digest.
Univision political analyst Arnoldo Torres gives his take on these issues in a Q&A with Univision News Political Editor Jordan Fabian.
Marco Rubio is proposing a pared-down version of the DREAM Act. He’s been criticized for not addressing the immigration issue before, why not give him the chance to try and get something done?
He is taking the initiative to “try and get something done” on the DREAM Act. This isn’t the issue. No one can control that or argue that he shouldn’t.
On the other hand, it is appropriate and fair to question the motivations behind his proposal and what the details will be. Up until his big speech on immigration in Miami during the Florida primary, he had held contradictory and opportunistic positions on immigration.
Two years ago, he supported English as the official language of the U.S., even though the Cuban community was enraged when a similar ordinance was enacted in 1980 in Miami-Dade County. He was critical of the current version of the DREAM Act leading up to his election to the U.S. Senate and he maintained this tough position throughout the primary season until the day before the Florida primary, when he all of the sudden acknowledged the state of limbo DREAM Act kids live in every single day.
Rubio says one of the reasons he opposes the current version of the DREAM Act is because it would allow “chain migration.” He does not want to allow undocumented students a separate path to citizenship because they would then open the door to their family members becoming citizens. I find it so hypocritical that Rubio and Rick Santorum oppose “chain migration” for Latino immigrants and forget that this is the same pattern used by Cuban refugees, and to a much greater extent, Italian immigrants during the early 20th century.
Based on this background his efforts to bring about a pared-down version of the DREAM Act can hardly seem to be motivated by his quest for good, just, and balanced public policy.
Rather than introduce DREAM Act legislation that is just and speaks to the rich traditions of this country’s immigrant foundations, does he want these young people to enroll in college, or even enlist in the military, with no guarantee they will enjoy the full rights granted to them as citizens? Why not simply acknowledge that a vast majority of students already have a stellar record of being great citizens of this nation and the only thing missing is allowing them to continue to contribute to this nation as equals among their peers?
Waiting until an election year to make his move, it’s difficult to see Rubio’s push as anything but “etch-a-sketch” politics.
The positions Rubio took when running for Senate in 2010 positions may have helped him win support of Tea Party activists and conservatives during his hard-fought primary, but they infuriated many Latinos and immigration reform advocates.
Now with Republicans struggling mightily with Latino voters against President Obama and the Democrats, he’s decided to adopt a more conciliatory approach. It’s tough for many of us to forget his past foibles.
Let’s pivot to what Romney said this week in Wisconsin. Many well-respected Latinos have accused President Obama of the same thing that Romney did on immigration, which is that he failed to meet his promise of bringing up sweeping reform in his first term in office.
Why criticize Romney for pointing out the lack of progress on comprehensive reform?
Not only are Latinos criticizing President Obama for failing to keep his promise but for much more — deporting more people than any president in contemporary history. To be fair, it’s important to remember that President Obama made a promise, not a qualified legislative objective, but a political promise. But remember this came from the candidate who presented himself as the ultimate agent of change! That’s not to mention the fact that, as a senator in 2007, he voted for a “poison pill” amendment backed by labor that closed the last door of opportunity on immigration reform.
Yes, there is much to trouble Latinos about voting for and supporting President Obama.
But on the issue of immigration, Romney has criticized President Obama for failing to pass comprehensive immigration reform at the same time that he’s made the environment for passing any such legislation impossibly toxic.
Rather than providing leadership in re-framing the debate, toning it down, speaking to the clear economic benefits unauthorized immigrant workers have historically contributed to this nation since its inception, Romney took the path of competing for which of the presidential candidates could offend and malign Latino immigrants more.
What struck me about Romney’s position is the fact that his own grandfather moved to Mexico to avoid a U.S. government crackdown on Mormon polygamy, not to mention the modern church’s push to embrace Latinos all over the Western Hemisphere. He ignores the trends happening in his own faith.
This is what many Latinos have seen and felt over the last two years from candidate Romney and President Obama. No leadership, no respect, no honesty, no principles. So does Romney really have any legitimacy in going after Obama when he has been absolutely no better after having such a low bar to clear? No way, José!
Immigration has rapidly become a hot-button issue on the campaign trail. But we’ve seen that it’s essentially become a third rail when it comes time to govern. In reality, what can be done to address the problems with the nation’s immigration laws after this campaign is over?
Elected officials must provide leadership in placing the complete picture of pros and cons on the table. This must happen by engaging in an honest and focused debate of improving and updating U.S. immigration laws, regulations, and programs.
While Republicans and Democrats speak about their support and approval for legal immigration, there has not any recent legislation that’s received serious attention from Congress that speaks to revamping and improving the legal immigration system, preference categories, and legal procedures that have long been identified in need of correction.
On the campaign trail, Republican presidential candidates have repeatedly spoken about their firm support for legal immigration, during the more than 18 debates to date, not one has submitted a comprehensive vision of how these areas of need would be improved under their leadership.
A serious approach to immigration reform would include several elements:
- An honest acknowledgement be the positive and substantial economic contributions that the unauthorized work force has contributed to this nation.
- A committee of lawmakers to produce a package of legislation that includes creative problems solvers willing to have dialogue with impacted communities, and who recognize the urgency and importance for this nation to undertake this reform. It should not extremists on both sides of the aisle who currently drive the discussion.
- A real assessment of how such a policy change would affect our Central and South American neighbors. It is a far better investment to strengthen the economies of countries that immigrants are leaving so that their citizens have another choice rather than to risk their lives coming north for a better life.
President Obama, if reelected should lead the way with such an approach.
Arnoldo Torres has been an independent political analyst for Univision Network for the past 12 years.