According to the latest numbers from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, only 29 young people have been approved for protection under the DACA program. While that number may increase in December, it will very likely not be the 1.76 million young people who qualify under the program. This means that Romney would only honor the protection of that small group, while relegating the rest back to the shadows who have not applied, because many are still collecting the necessary documents or are still saving up to pay the fee.
What is also clear is that Romney has not disavowed his previous tea party positions on immigration: promise to veto the DREAM Act, self-deportation, and making SB1070 a model for the nation.
At Univision’s Meet the Candidate, Mitt Romney said, "we're not going to round up 12 million people, that includes kids and parents, and have them all deported." On this point he has been consistent since he won’t round up people but force undocumented immigrants to do it themselves. Throughout the primaries, Romney jumped to the right on issue after issue. He claimed that Rick Perry had no brain because he signed in-state tuition for undocumented immigrants, applauded SB 1070 as a model for the nation and came out with a “self-deportation” plan of making DREAMers miserable until they just go away.
A President Romney would not deport anyone but would use every opportunity to make life difficult for undocumented youth, including making college and dreams unattainable. The worry would exacerbate that he would even would use information collected through the DACA program to track young people and their families.
More alarming is that Romney does not well understand the immigration system as he called DACA a visa. "The people who have 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.” DACA is not a “visa”. President Obama’s June 15 order is an exercise of prosecutorial discretion to not pursue enforcement actions against undocumented youth. The lack of understanding shows that Romney would likely defer to anti-immigrant advisors like Kris Kobach, mastermind of SB1070 and “self-deportation”, to be in charge of enforcement measures.
Congress has gotten less rational since the last time the Republican side filibustered the DREAM Act to death. Mitt Romney’s intention to work with Congress on immigration in his first year is laudable but naive at best. A President Romney has to realize that a dysfunctional 113th Congress may prevent him from passing legislation even if his first term, as a timid President Obama realized.
DACA is a temporary measure that needs to be continued to ensure that talent is not wasted until legislation is passed. Indeed, if the DREAM Act is passed, the youth and their improved access to college and better jobs would add $329 billion and 1.4 million jobs to the nation's economy over two decades. Ultimately, the DREAM Act and modernizing our immigration system must be a priority for the next president if he is serious in creating jobs and keeping mix-status families together.
Vargas is with the DREAM Action Coalition and a national activist for the DREAM Act.