Between Obama and Romney, Choice Should Be Crystal Clear to Immigrants

Mitt Romney at the second Presidential debate. (Photo: Flickr/barackobamadotcom)

During the second presidential debate on Tuesday a question about immigration was finally posed by an audience member. “Mr. Romney, what do you plan on doing with immigrants without their green cards that are currently living here as productive members of society?”

Gov. Romney’s response belied his hardline immigration stance. He may have paid lip service to his immigrant ancestry and acknowledged the need for more high-skilled visas, but he stressed that “we’re going to have to stop illegal immigration.” He swore not to “grant amnesty to those who have come here illegally.”

Rather than proposing a path to citizenship for those who have been living here for some time without papers, he said that he’ll “put in place an employment verification system and make sure that employers that hire people who have come here illegally are sanctioned for doing so.”

This, in his grand scheme of things, would encourage the 12 million “undocumented illegals” to choose self-deportation. “If they find that — that they can’t get the benefits here that they want and they can’t — and they can’t find the job they want, then they’ll make a decision to go (to) a place where — where they have better opportunities.” He did offer a way for “kids of those that came here illegally” to gain permanent residency, namely through military service.

In contrast, the President reiterated the need to fix “a broken immigration system” and articulated the need for a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. “I’ve done everything that I can on my own and sought cooperation from Congress to make sure that we fix the system.” He reminded those who point out that he has not fulfilled his promise of reform, “I have sat down with Democrats and Republicans at the beginning of my term. And I said, let’s fix this system. Including senators previously who had supported it on the Republican side. But it’s very hard for Republicans in Congress to support comprehensive immigration reform, if their standard bearer has said that this is not something I’m interested in supporting.”

Mr. Obama also acknowledged the entrepreneurial spirit of immigrants which is “good for our economic growth.” He reminded Mr. Romney that while the Republican candidate had said he would veto the DREAM Act, the current administration has granted a reprieve to young immigrants. The President derided the self-deportation policy solution of Gov. Romney and his anti-immigrant allies.

For most immigrant voters, none of this is new. A majority of Latinos and Asian Americans support President Obama because they are acutely aware that he and the Democratic Party have long embraced people of color and immigrants. They know, that at the end of the day, they will fare better under an Obama White House and a Democratic Congress, not only as immigrants but as hard-working lower and middle class Americans.

There is no denying that the Obama administration has deported a staggering number of unauthorized immigrants, including those who are not, in Mr. Obama’s own words, “criminals, gang bangers, people who are hurting the community” but “folks who are here just because they’re trying to figure out how to feed their families.” This approach, in my mind, is a misguided and very unfortunate attempt by the administration’s to prove their law enforcement bona fides to Republican critics and lawmakers who never intended to and never will cooperate in enacting comprehensive immigration reform.

Nonetheless, for the few who remain undecided, what else is there to consider? Review the debate video, read the transcript, and check both men’s past words and actions. Gov. Romney is hell bent on getting rid of those people, those who are here illegally without considering that they are the parents, children, uncles, aunts, friends and neighbors of millions of Americans who only want a shot at the American Dream. President Obama in stark contrast, is determined to treat everyone with dignity while finding a fair and rational solution to an intractable immigration stalemate.

Originally posted on Feet in 2 Worlds, October 19, 2012.

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Survey Reveals Asians Are a Voting Bloc that Cannot Be Ignored

By not reaching out to Asian Americans, parties risk alienating the fastest growing demographic. (Photo: Flickr/subtle_devices)

Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) are the nation’s fastest growing racial group, growing by as much as 46 percent during the first decade of this century. According to Karthick Ramakrishnan, Director of the National Asian American Survey (NAAS), AAPIs are an important and growing political constituency. While only 5.6 percent of the U.S. population is of Asian descent, six hundred thousand new AAPI voters participated in the elections for the first time in 2008 and a similar number is expected to do so this year.

AAPI organizations have been heavily mobilizing the community, urging people to register and vote. The Asian vote could very well determine the outcome in battleground states where there are large concentrations of AAPIs. In fact, one in six Asian Americans lives in a battleground state.

NAAS has released a report on the 2012 elections which includes a number of findings which can prove invaluable to both Democrats and Republicans, not just in this election cycle but moving forward as the AAPI community jockeys for its place in American society and politics.

Earlier this week, the Wilson Center’s Asia Program hosted a panel which discussed the 2012 National Survey of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Although NAAS is an academic and nonpartisan effort to poll the opinions of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders on a wide range of issues, Ramakrishnan anticipated that many in the audience were interested in learning how the AAPI community will vote in November.

Among U.S. citizens in this group, 45 percent can be described as “likely voters.” Filipino Americans, the second largest AAPI group, and Japanese Americans are the most likely to vote among AAPIs. 43 percent of Asian American likely voters support Barack Obama while 24 percent support Mitt Romney. There are some considerable differences by ethnic group however: Indian Americans, the third largest group, show the strongest support for the president (68 percent) while Filipinos show the strongest support for Gov. Romney (38 percent).

It is crucial to point out that nearly a third of likely AAPI voters remain undecided. In contrast, recent surveys reveal that roughly 7 percent of the general population is undecided. Moreover, a little more than half of Asian Americans consider themselves independent or non-partisan.

Mee Moua, president of the Asian American Justice Center (AAJC), warned both parties that they have been ignoring the Asian American community at their peril. She distributed an AAJC handout showing that over the past couple of years neither Democrats nor Republicans have seriously reached out to AAPI registered voters. Only 23 percent of registered Asian Democrats and 17 percent of registered Asian Republicans were contacted. Although the community shows greater support for Mr. Obama and leans Democratic, they “have the potential to be the margin of victory” for either party Moua stressed. If the Democratic Party fails to convince undecided and independent AAPIs, then the GOP has an opportunity to win more votes for Mr. Romney and other Republican candidates.

Ramakrishnan, when asked what might explain President Obama’s and the Democratic Party’s better standing among AAPIs, said that it has a lot to do with perception – which party appears more welcoming and inclusive. The Republican convention for instance hammered the message that America is a Christian nation. Only four in ten Asians are Christian. The rest are Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs or those unaffiliated with any religion.

Voters, regardless of their race or ethnicity, will support candidates they can identify with and who they believe understand their concerns. Asian Americans still feel invisible and ignored, but they are ready to take their seat at the table. Both parties better get to know AAPIs fast and vie for Asian American votes just as they do for other communities of color.

Originally posted on Feet in 2 Worlds, September 28, 2012.

Despite Display of Diversity, GOP Actions and Words Send Hostile Message to Immigrants

The optics of a mostly white crowd aren’t good for Republicans. (Photo: Flickr/newshour)

The Republican Party is trying hard to appear diverse, inclusive, and welcoming. While they can’t do much about the optics of a convention packed with white people, they can control who gets the podium.

Have a look at the list of convention speakers. You have a large number of Latinos, including Ted Cruz, Texas U.S. Senate nominee, Susana Martinez, New Mexico Governor, and of course, GOP darling Marco Rubio, U.S. Senator from Florida. You even have some Asians, with appearances by Nikki Haley, Governor of South Carolina, and Ishwar Singh, president of the Sikh Society of Central Florida.

GOP leaders recognize that our country is fast becoming a majority minority nation and they need to appeal to people of color, especially growing immigrant communities which will decide the outcome, if not of this year’s elections, certainly of the 2016 race and beyond.

Republicans need to understand that most of us can see through this manufactured and condescending visual. The rabid anti-immigrant rhetoric of the GOP presidential primaries is still steaming fresh in our minds. Rubio himself admitted to George Stephanopoulos that he agreed with Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa when he said “you can’t just trot out a brown face or a Spanish surname and expect people are going to vote for your party or your candidate.”

“Policies matter and, look, the Republican Party does have a challenge,” Rubio said.

The platform they proudly present at the convention is not exactly endearing to us either. While Rep. Marsha Blackburn, co-chair of the Platform Committee, boasts that the platform “represents the inclusiveness of our party and reaffirms the idea that we are the ‘Big Tent Party,’” many of us see it as the exact opposite, as proof of their propensity to exclude.

The GOP platform pushes for reduction in federal spending, particularly social safety net programs. It advocates for a tax code that shamelessly favors the wealthy. It continues the Republican assault on labor unions. It declares an end to “Obamacare.” It spells out an immigration policy that focuses mainly on law enforcement and opposes any form of reprieve for undocumented immigrants.

The thing is, communities of color which are mostly middle and lower income Americans, rely on safety net programs they pay for with their taxes. These are families and individuals who will not benefit from tax breaks for wealthy Americans who do not need preferential treatment. Labor unions protect the interests of all working Americans. The president’s health care reform law has already benefited millions who would otherwise not have adequate care or any healthcare at all. Are Republicans really so tone deaf to what truly matters to immigrants, their children, and communities?

Shenanigans during the convention are also indicative of the climate that greets people of color when they step into Republican spaces. A couple of attendees threw nuts at an African American camerawoman, explaining “This is how we feed animals.” As Zoraida Fonalledas, chair of the Committee on Permanent Organization, started to speak in her accented English, some in the crowd started chanting “U.S.A.! U.S.A.!” The attendees who assaulted the camerawomen were promptly ejected and RNC chairman Reince Priebus did call for order and respect for Fonalledas, but none of the bigwigs has come forward to challenge fringe elements in their midst.

On the contrary, Mitt Romney pandered to birthers and nativists in the GOP ranks when he declared “no one’s ever asked to see my birth certificate” while campaigning in Michigan last week.

Eric Liu, former speechwriter and deputy domestic policy adviser for President Clinton and a fellow with the Center for Social Cohesion at Arizona State University, writes:

Romney’s implicit pledge of allegiance to the birther movement is as revealing of his character as anything else in his campaign of half-deliberate opacity. He appears to lack a core capacity for empathy. He literally cannot see himself as someone not white, as someone accented or a newcomer … Romney may yet win in November. But he and this whole odious line of attack are on the losing side of history. The tide of demographics is irresistible, and soon enough it’ll sweep up his birth certificate and mine into a new notion of who is truly from this country.

Jeb Bush, who has been admonishing his party to ease up on its hardline immigration stance, told The Hill that inclusive language and policies are important symbols which reflect sensitivity for the concerns of communities of color. He also warned that if immigrant communities do not feel welcome, “we’re going to lose elections.” “That’s not opinion — that’s math,” he said.

Bush’s calculations are spot on. No matter how hard the Republican Party tries, most of us do not feel welcome. Both their words and actions belie their protestations of diversity and inclusivity.

Originally posted on Feet in 2 Worlds, August 30, 2012.

Romney-Ryan Ticket Not Good News for Immigrants

 

 

 

Rep. Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney’s chosen running mate, shares a hardline stance on immigration with the former Massachusetts governor. A Romney-Ryan regime would not be as friendly to immigrants as the Obama administration.

On his Congressional website, the Republican Vice Presidential candidate promises to continue advocating for “common sense reforms to our broken [immigration] system.” His notion of reform however is focused and stipulated on strict border control and law enforcement, even though our borders are more secure than ever, immigration from Mexico has slowed down, and the Obama administration has deported a record number of unauthorized immigrants. He hedges on the Dream Act, stating that he “understands the points DREAM ACT supporters have raised,” but the stark fact is that he voted against it in 2010.

OnTheIssues.org, a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization which provides information on candidates, gives a good indication where Ryan stands on immigration. In 2006, he voted yes on building a fence along the Mexican border and on preventing tipping off Mexicans about the Minuteman Project.

We will certainly learn more in the coming days where the Wisconsin congressman stands on immigration and other issues that matter to voters. But make no mistake: Romney picked Ryan because of pressure from conservatives. The GOP ticket now solidly sits on the far right on all issues. In short, a Romney-Ryan regime would be bad news not only for immigrants, but for seniors, women, LGBTs, and middle class Americans as well.

Romney Presents Best Candidate for Latinos: Obama

Romney’s Etch-a-Sketch machine. (Illustration by DonkeyHotey)

There were no surprises from Mitt Romney during his speech at the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials’ (NALEO) annual conference in Florida last Thursday.

Romney hammered the president on the economy and high unemployment rate among Latinos. In character, he skirted the question on everybody’s mind: whether or not he would repeal President Obama’s immigration reprieve for undocumented youth if elected.

“I will put in place my own long-term solution that will replace and supersede the president’s temporary measure,” Romney offered, fantasizing that he would somehow get both parties to work together at passing immigration reform.  He did hint at a possible solution for undocumented youth. The GOP candidate promised that as President, he “will stand for a path to legal status for anyone who is willing to stand up and defend this great nation through military service.”

Senior Romney adviser Ed Gillespie gave a more straightforward and honest answer about Obama’s immigration order during CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday.

“Every executive action that President Obama has taken will be subject to review,” Gillespie said. “In the case of this case, it will be subject to review as to whether or not it’s legal. So there’s legitimate questions about the legality of it.”

The Bain Capital founder came to Florida knowing full well that he had to do an etch-a-sketch on immigration and make amends with an audience he and other GOP presidential hopefuls had wantonly abused during the Republican primaries with strident anti-immigrant rhetoric. Self-deportation was Mitt Romney’s unpopular answer then.

“I’ve come here today with a simple message: you do have an alternative,” Romney said. “Your vote should be respected and your voice is more important now than ever before.”

No doubt the Latino voice will be more crucial than ever come November. But Romney and the Republican Party have not exactly been respectful. Latinos and other immigrant communities do have an alternative—an alternative to Romney.

Originally posted on Feet in 2 Worlds, June 26, 2012.

President Romney’s ‘Día Uno’ Campaign Won’t Earn Him Latino Votes

Republican contender Mitt Romney

Republican contender Mitt Romney. (Photo: Gage Skidmore/flickr)

Mitt Romney sealed the deal in Texas on Tuesday and is now the official Republican presidential candidate. The former Massachusetts governor has been actively reaching out to Latino voters who he managed to alienate during the primaries.

At the Latino Coalition’s annual economic summit in Washington, D.C., last week, Romney explained how he would improve schools andcalled education “the greatest civil rights issue of our era and our greatest challenge.”

The weekend prior, his team released its Spanish-language ad campaign entitled “Día Uno,” which focuses on what Romney would tackle his first day as President – the economy.  The ads are running in Iowa, North Carolina, Virginia and Ohio.

The odd but unsurprising thing about both of these efforts is that Gov. Romney does not mention immigration whatsoever. He brazenly skirts the issue.

No doubt Latinos care about their children’s education and having jobs that provide for their families. But precisely because family and community are also very important to Latinos, immigration is an issue Romney cannot sweep under the rug.

The core of his immigration policy, attrition through enforcement, has prompted families to remove their children from school and parents to leave jobs out of fear. Moreover, his plan to reform immigration includes tighter enforcement and border control and eschews any path to legalization for unauthorized immigrants. Romney’s hardline immigration stance greatly impacts Latino voters, many of whom have undocumented family members and friends.

“Make no mistake, when I am President, you won’t wake up every day and wonder if the President is on your side,” he proclaimed at the Latino Coalition meeting. Mitt Romney is right. Latino and other voters with ties to immigrant communities know that should he win the presidency, he will not be on their side from day one. He has made that rather obvious.

Originally posted on Feet in 2 Worlds, June 1, 2012.

‘Estamos Unidos’ President Obama Woos En Español

Estamos Unidos

A message to Latinos from President Obama.

La familia es bien importante a Presidente Obama,” Lynnette Acosta tells the family she is visiting.

That is why the president fought hard for the overhaul of the health care system – because he cares for usted.

Acosta is speaking to this family at their dining room table, but her voice will be heard by thousands of Latino voters in Florida, Nevada and Colorado.  She is a volunteer spokesperson in a new series of Spanish-language television ads the Obama re-election campaign launched Tuesday.   Obama and Romney are expected to have a tight contest in these battleground states which have large Latino populations.

The commercials are part of a nine-state, $25 million advertising blitz from the Obama camp. Transitioning from the “Si Se Puede,” slogan of 2008, “Estamos Unidos” is the 2012 tagline. The campaign told CNN that the spots feature “first person accounts from Obama for America organizers and supporters sharing their personal stories of how the President’s policies have empowered Latino families and communities.” They promote the Affordable Health Care Act which the White House touts as ”giving Latinos greater control of their own health care” through a quality and affordable system.

The Republican National Committee also tried to launch its own outreach to the Latino community Tuesday. The RNC’s newly minted Director of Hispanic Outreach, Bettina Inclan, held a press briefing to promote the party’s efforts to woo Latino voters. She meant to highlight Obama’s deportations record and pivot the spotlight away from Mitt Romney’s hardline immigration stance and focus it on the economic hardships disproportionately suffered by Latino families.

Unfortunately, the briefing didn’t go too well. Reporters were more interested in talking about Romney’s harsh anti-immigrant rhetoric during the Republican presidential primaries and the expected loss of Latino voters this November.  Inclan declared, “As a candidate, to my understanding, he is still deciding what his position on immigration is.”

Inclan’s comment went viral and RNC press secretary Kirsten Kukowski jumped in to clarify that “we never said the governor is still deciding on immigration.” Indeed, Romney’s website is pretty clear that his hardline stance has not softened one bit and his team has not shaken the immigration Etch-A-Sketch. Not yet anyway.

Convincing Latino voters that Romney has their best interests in mind will be a Sisyphean task. His harsh words, seared in the minds of Latinos and other immigrant communities, cannot be retracted, much less erased from our collective minds and digital repositories.

It will not be as much of a challenge for the president. Recent polls show Obama leading Romney among Latino voters by as much as 68 percent. Yet this does not necessarily mean that Latinos will come out and vote in November.

President Obama will have to alleviate the sting of unparalleled deportation numbers and the unfulfilled promises of comprehensive immigration reform and the DREAM Act. Broadcasting Lynnette Acosta to remind Latinos of how health care reform benefits them is one way. Pointing out that GOP lawmakers stonewalled the DREAM Act and that most Republican politicians, including Mitt Romney, have fanned immigrant animus is another.

I believe that Latinos and other minority communities know that all families are very important to the president, not just the rich and native-born. The trick is to turn them out on November 6 and vote.

Originally posted on Feet in 2 Worlds, May 11, 2012.

Please Etch-A-Sketch Away the Self-Deportation Myth

Undocumented immigrants protest Alabama's harsh new immigration law (Photo: Dreamactivist)

This is not what self-deportation looks like:Undocumented immigrants protest Alabama’s immigration law, HB 56. (Photo: DreamActivist)

Mitt Romney revealed how he would address the issue of 11 million unauthorized immigrants during a Republican primary debate earlier this year:

“The answer is self-deportation, which is that people decide that they can do better by going home because they can’t find work here because they don’t have legal documentation to allow them to work here,” the presumptive GOP presidential candidate said.

The strategy is also known as “attrition through enforcement,” which anti-illegal immigration group NumbersUSA describes as the “enforcement of all the laws already on the books” at all levels of government to “make it extremely difficult for unauthorized persons to live and work in the United States.”

Proponents of the approach in Alabama assert that their tough immigration law has already led to the self-deportation of many undocumented immigrants. They present the state’s falling unemployment rate as evidence of this trend.

“If you compare our unemployment rate drop to the region, our drop was much more quick,” State Sen. Scott Beason, a sponsor of Alabama’s HB 56, said. “I have been asking for months for the people who say [the law] had nothing to do with it, to explain to me what did it. Why are we so much faster, and why did it start in October?”

So does “attrition by enforcement” truly work?

new report by the Immigration Policy Center claims it does not. Dr. Alexandra Filindra, author of the report, titled The Myth of Self-Deportation, says the problem with the self-deportation theory rests in the assumption that immigrants will make an economic decision to leave.  She doesn’t buy the idea that undocumented immigrants will leave voluntarily rather than risk getting arrested, detained, and eventually deported.

Filindra counters this theory with preliminary evidence from studies conducted in states where draconian immigration laws have been passed showing that the immigrant population has largely remained in place.

Many economists say the presumed correlation between HB 56 and Alabama’s unemployment rate is faulty. Rather, they contend the fall in the state’s unemployment numbers is a result of people dropping out of the workforce while job creation remains more or less flat.

“The proponents of the immigration law really have no solid, defendable, reasonable evidence other than the desire to link those two together,” Keivan Deravi, an economics professor at Auburn University Montgomery, told the Montgomery Adviser.

Ahmad Ijaz, an economist with the University of Alabama’s Center for Business and Economic Research, added that “it’s mostly because as the jobs are hard to get during the recession, a lot of people give up on looking for a job.”

Juan Pedroza, whose research is cited by Filindra, writes that “it’s tough to tell whether (and how many) immigrants have left a community if you are looking right after a state passes a law. It can take years of evidence to test claims of a mass exodus.”

Pedroza also mentions an important variable in any undocumented immigrant’s equation: his family. He writes, “immigrant families with school-age children have local roots. Parents have invested a great deal in their children’s future by settling down and enrolling their children in school. These families rank among the least likely to flee for good.” In other words, jobs aren’t the only incentive to remaining in a locale.

So, as presidential candidate Romney moves to the center on immigration and shakes his Etch-A-Sketch, he might as well erase his preferred method for dealing with our unauthorized neighbors. May I humbly suggest a reasonable and fair solution for the 11 million undocumented immigrants?  A majority of Americans — including Republicans — favor a strategy that includes both enforcement and a path to citizenship.

Originally posted on Feet in 2 Worlds, May 4, 2012.

Arizona Sheriff Babeu Resigns From Romney Campaign, But Intends to Weather Scandal

Sheriff Paul Babeu

Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu at rally for Mitt Romney in Paradise Valley, Arizona. (Photo: Gage Skidmore/flickr)

Over the past few days, Republican candidate for Arizona’s 4th Congressional District and Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu has been engulfed in a political and personal maelstrom.

The conservative (former) rising star, whose hardline immigration stance landed him co-chair of Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign in Arizona, was forced to come out as gay after allegations surfaced that he threatened his Mexican ex-boyfriend with deportation (Politicoreported that the ex is in the country legally).

Nancy-Jo Merritt, a longtime Phoenix immigration attorney, told the Phoenix New Times that Babeu’s threat is indicative of an “atmosphere that’s been created politically in this state, so that if you get angry at someone who is Hispanic, you immediately jump down to the level of threatening to deport him.”

Babeu denies the allegations that he threatened his ex with deportation, and he has refused to end his bid for a congressional seat. He did, however, resign from his post in Romney’s campaign.

In an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer Monday, Babeu declared that as a matter-of-fact he was the victim. He claimed that his ex-boyfriend, who had once volunteered for his campaign, stole private information, was sabotaging his run, and maligning his character. He also suggested that this was all politically motivated.

“The timing of this is more than coincidence, that nationally, that all of this stuff, for years, all the media here in Arizona, all five TV stations, enemies of mine, people have gone through my chain of command in the military to report that I’m gay,” he said.

Pete Rios, chairman of the Pinal County Board of Supervisors and a Babeu critic, and Respect Respeto, a Phoenix-based immigrant rights group, are calling for investigations into Babeu.

“These types of threats and acts of intimidation send a horrible message to the migrant community that they cannot look to their law-enforcement agencies for protection when they are victims of a crime,” Lydia Guzman, director of Respect Respeto, wrote the Department of Justice.

“It is my feeling that neither an elected official nor a law-enforcement officer should abuse their positions to make such threats upon an individual in exchange for their silence, and this is why I am respectfully requesting an investigation into this matter,” Guzman continued.

There’s no doubt Babeu’s opponents in Arizona are enjoying some schadenfreude, but Babeu’s threats to his ex, if true, reveal a frightening relationship between law enforcement and the state’s large Hispanic population that we should take seriously.

Originally posted on Feet in 2 Worlds, February 21, 2012.

The ARMS Act Does Not Make Sense

Marine is sworn in as a US Citizen

Marine is sworn in as a U.S. Citizen. (NYC Marines/flickr)

Republican Rep. David Rivera proposed a bill late last week which would give undocumented youth a path to citizenship.

The Adjusted Residency for Military Service Act – the ARMS Act – is a pruned version of the DREAM Act. Immigrant youth who were brought into the United States illegally as children have the chance to change their status by attending college or joining the military under the DREAM Act. Rivera’s measure only allows undocumented youth the opportunity to legalize through enlisting in military service.

“If somebody is willing to die for America, then certainly they deserve a chance at life in America,” Rivera told the Miami Herald.

Both Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney support the ARMS Act.

“I think there is no opposition to that part of the DREAM Act,” Gingrich told a gathering of the Latin Builder’s Association Friday. “I think it should go through immediately.”

Undocumented youth, however, are not as enthusiastic about the ARMS Act.

Juan Escalante, a DREAM Act activist, says that “the ARMS Act is the GOP ‘dream’ of the Dream Act.”

“The ARMS Act is an opportunistic attempt, in my opinion, from the GOP trying to capitalize some DREAM Act momentum,” he said.

Escalante is not the only DREAMer who opposes the military-only version of the DREAM Act.

Colorlines reporter Julianne Hing wrote that undocumented youth ask, “why it is that the only way they can serve the country they’ve grown up in is by joining the military. Undocumented youth argue that they are fully capable of serving the country in many other ways.”

Escalante, who has no objections himself to the military component of the DREAM Act, said, “It seems foolish to me that you could only be granted relief by risking your life for this country. What are those doctors, lawyers, or politician scientists such as myself, going to do?”

“Better yet, is the United States ready to deport trained professionals or students who have benefited from the public education system funded by the taxpayers?” he asked.

Ali Noorani, Executive Director of the National Immigration Forum, released a statement characterizing the ARMS Act as “a distortion of the DREAM Act.” He argues that excluding legalization through higher education “would provide the wrong incentives for military enlistment during a time of war.” Some undocumented youth might sign up out of desperation and not because they are interested in military service.

Noorani also contends that “by denying immigrant students the right to higher education, America is losing out on their entrepreneurship, productivity and economic contributions.”

The ARMS Act does not make sense. It appears to be a thinly veiled GOP attempt to pander to military hawks while dangling a bittersweet fruit in front of Latino voters turned off by the immigration rhetoric spewed during the Republican presidential primaries.

There is something mercenary about the idea.

The fact of the matter is a majority of Americans support the full DREAM Act. In December 2010, the bill passed the House by a resounding vote of 216-198 but failed in the Senate by five votes.

There is nothing wrong with encouraging anyone to enlist with the military. If done voluntarily it is a noble act which should be applauded and held high as an example. But there is more than one way to serve your country.

Undocumented youth, if given the chance, would educate our children, heal our sick, strengthen our economy and yes, die for the country they consider their own.

Originally posted on Feet in 2 Worlds, February 3, 2012.