Thirty four days before the Presidential election, Republican nominee Mitt Romney has expressed a position on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which has been in place since August 15. In an interview with the Denver Post, Romney stated that if he were elected President, “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. I’m not going to take something that they’ve purchased.” He also said that, although he would honor the work permits and deferred action grants, he would not issue any new ones after his inauguration.
This is certainly welcome news, but the wording of Romney’s support is worrisome. First, I can not help but think that there is some sort of dog whistle to the anti-immigrant crowd in there. By stating that the President is allowing people to “purchase visas,” Romney alludes to a common wingnut belief that the President is simply selling visas to whomever can come up with $465. A common hallucination against DACA is that there is going to be extensive fraud and we will never know if we are helping the real DREAMers or whether we are giving status to criminals and terrorists. I wonder if Romney is consciously indulging this fantasy. Second, Romney views this as entirely transactional. He makes no mention of the compelling circumstances of DACA applicants. He views this as something that people have purchased and not as a program meant to shield a deserving class of youth from the fear of removal. People deserve this benefit, in Romney’s worldview, because they have paid for it, not because of the circumstances of their arrival and their potential to contribute to our society. By linking the program to a financial transaction, Romney undermines the moral validity of the claim to civil rights for the DREAMers. Third, it is not a visa. Come on, get it right. You are running for the Presidency not for the Topeka School Board. Get your terms and facts straight. I suppose the error can be easily explained by the fact that Romney’s number one immigration adviser is Kris Kobach, who rarely gets anything right on immigration law.
Romney also said that, at the end of the two years that DACA grants are good for, “Before those visas have expired we will have the full immigration reform plan that I’ve proposed.” Romney is dangling major immigration reform. Of course, we have no idea what his plan is or how he plans of getting it through a Congress that has been ceded to the likes of Steve King and Jeff Sessions. The Republican party, with the help of certain feckless Democrats, has repeatedly stymied even the most sensible immigration reform. Remember the DREAM Act passed the House and got 55 votes in the senate, which would have been enough had the Republicans not filibustered it. Romney is attempting to woo Latinos by blaming the President for the failure to pass immigration reform between 2008 and 2010. This fantasy argues that since the Democrats had a a filibuster-proof majority in both houses during that time (which is not strictly true- there was the Specter conversion and the Kennedy death) and failed to pass immigration reform, that a Republican president and a Republican Congress would do better. Hogwash. Republican President Bush could not get the wingnut portion of his party to support immigration reform and, since his first day in office, President Obama faced a Republican minority committed to defeating him and using the filibuster to prevent anything from happening in Congress. Now, they have the chutzpah to imagine that Republican obstruction had nothing to do with the failure to get immigration reform. While, we believe that most reasonable people reject this, it is disappointing to see otherwise astute observers of the political scene fall for this.
Finally, Romney also said this: “I actually will propose a piece of legislation which will reform our immigration system to improve legal immigration so people don’t have to hire lawyers to figure out how to get here legally.” Now, that is hitting below the belt! Romney wants to put us out of business. Now, we can understand that the federal government may be getting tired of getting sued by us and losing, but this is personal. We are small business owners. Since we embarked on this venture, we have created four new jobs in the country. We have obtained visas for people that have enabled them to open businesses and hire more workers. As business owners, shouldn’t we be squarely within Romney’s sights? Instead, he states that he wants a system that does not require lawyers. We are all for simplifying the immigration laws and making them work for the United States. We are tired of telling people that there is nothing we can do for them and their best option to is to save their money and spend it on a new home in their home country. However, we remain committed to fighting for our clients and we envision that whatever reform Romney proposes will only increase our business as he is likely to cede immigration policy to the Steve Kings, Joe Arpaios and Kris Kobachs. If that happens, our response is “see you in court.”