Their dreams aren't about politics

Maria Ibarra,19, originally from Durango, Mexico, and Candido Renteria, 24, of Monterrey Nuevo Leon, hug with joy in Edinburg, Texas, after President Obama announced he would ease enforcement of immigration laws on Friday. Many students gathered at the student union at the UTPA Campus in Edinburg to watch the announcement. DELCIA LOPEZ / The Monitor
Maria Ibarra,19, originally from Durango, Mexico, and Candido Renteria, 24, of Monterrey Nuevo Leon, hug with joy in Edinburg, Texas, after President Obama announced he would ease enforcement of immigration laws on Friday. Many students gathered at the student union at the UTPA Campus in Edinburg to watch the announcement. DELCIA LOPEZ / The Monitor
Posted: June 20, 2012

Accusing President Obama of playing politics in directing the Department of Homeland Security to stop deporting young people brought to this country illegally by relatives or other adults isn't likely to turn voters against him.

Most people recognize that, despite whatever his underlying motive might be, Obama did the right thing. In fact, a Bloomberg poll Tuesday showed 64 percent of likely voters agree with what Obama did. They should. Children who had no say in how they arrived in this country shouldn't be punished for being here.

"These are young people who study in our schools, they play in our neighborhoods, they're friends with our kids, they pledge allegiance to our flag. They are Americans in their heart, in their minds, in every single way but one — on paper," said Obama.

The travesty is that he didn't act sooner. The Pew Hispanic Center estimates as many as 1.4 million children and young adults, including 700,000 between the ages of 18 and 30, could benefit from Obama's directive. Not among them, though, are thousands like Marlon Roberto Cortes, 20, profiled by the Associated Press, who was recently deported to Honduras after living in Chelsea, Mass., since he was a child.

Republicans are criticizing Obama's directive, saying it's a temporary solution to a problem that he should have sought to solve legislatively when Democrats were in control of Congress. They conveniently leave out the filibuster tactics the Republican minority back then used to thwart immigration reform.

In fact, the GOP has fought reform for so long it's hard to believe the first legislation to give a reprieve to children brought here illegally — the original DREAM Act — was sponsored in 2001 by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R., Utah). The DREAM Act continued to get multiple Republican cosponsors until Obama's election, when the party decided to be against almost anything he was for.

Obama, though, caught the GOP off guard with his latest move. Outmaneuvered was Sen. Marco Rubio (R., Fla.), who had been working on an alternative to the DREAM Act that could help Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney win Hispanic votes. Romney, who has always opposed the DREAM Act, won't say whether he would continue Obama's directive if he replaces him.

It should be clear to anyone not playing politics that it makes sense to keep young people who want to give back to the country that has provided them so much opportunity otherwise a chance to stay here and make that contribution.

Obama's directive provides two-year deportation deferrals to qualified young people up to age 30 who have lived in this country at least five years, are in school or the military, and don't have a felony criminal record. But, unlike the DREAM Act, it doesn't include a path to citizenship. Legislation for that must be tried again.

Republicans say they won't take up comprehensive immigration reform until Obama makes the borders more secure. But he has done that. Illegal immigration is down due to a number of factors, including the post-recession lack of jobs here. But Obama has also cracked down, deporting a record 397,000 people last year. He didn't do that to win Hispanic votes.

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