Obama’s executive order: the Dream Act lives on

Mitt Romney says that President Obama’s recent move not to deport illegal immigrants brought here as children was motivated by politics. Now there’s a surprise!  That’s a little bit like Captain Renault in Casablanca saying “I’m shocked, shocked to find that there is gambling is going on in here.”  Of course it was political, shrewdly political.  And it also makes sense on the substance.

The President couldn’t get Congress to move ahead on The Dream Act, which had a certain level of bipartian support until partisan politics stopped it in its tracks. The proposal has been around for a decade, and at certain points, had the support of George W. Bush and John McCain. In various forms, it would have provided temporary residency to those illegals who had been brought here as children, lived here continuously for five years, and had no criminal records.  They could subsequently apply for permanent residency if they attended at least two years at a four-year college or served in the military.

As I wrote on my blog last year, these are hard-working people seeking to improve themselves or serve the country, individuals we would want to become upstanding tax-paying citizens, to strengthen our workforce and/or our military. They are talent to be embraced. It is counterproductive to deny them the opportunity and thus ensure they remain part of an underclass.  Let’s face it, by becoming taxpayers, these former illegals would help reduce the deficit, which both the Congressional Budget Office and House Taxation Committee have projected.

So now, frustrated by Congressional inaction and mindful that Republican Vice President possibility Senator Marco Rubio was touting his own version, President Obama went with this version by executive order.  Shrewd, indeed.  According to a Bloomberg survey, 64 percent of likely voters approve the announcement.  Both parties are looking to entice Latino voters, who went heavily for Obama last time.  This helps to explain why Mitt Romney faulted the solution as short-term. The GOP and he criticized the President for doing an end run around Congress. But Romney didn’t say that, if elected, he would repeal the executive order. His recent positions on immigration have sounded slightlty more enlighted since etch-a-sketching his way from his more draconian anti-immigrant pronouncements during the primaries.   

Romney now speaks of a comprehensive approach to legal immigration and pledges to treat illegals “in a civil and resolute manner.”  Yesterday he went further, telling a Hispanic group he would help reunite families and award green cards to illegals who earned advanced degrees.   He called immigration reform a “moral imperative.”

Obama’s move  may well be an end run, but it’s hard to complain about the political timing (which was clever if you like the content of the policy) when the move makes such good sense substantively and economically.  In addition, Obama supporters frustrated by the mishandling of so many aspects of his campaign can be pleased that he did something that was right and smart.

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