Rob Horowitz: Obama Moves Us Forward on Immigration Policy

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


President Barack Obama’s executive action preventing young, illegal immigrants brought to our nation by their parents from being deported is an important step towards a more humane, sensible and economically-smart immigration policy.

This new policy applies to people under the age of 30 who arrived here when they were under the age of 16. They must have no criminal record, have a high school diploma or currently be enrolled in school or be a military veteran. The policy frees these young people who strongly identify as Americans to emerge from the shadows and work legally.

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As President Obama said in announcing this new policy, “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. They were brought to this country by their parents -- sometimes even as infants -- and often have no idea that they’re undocumented until they apply for a job or a driver’s license, or a college scholarship.”

Good policy can also be good politics and this announcement was clearly made with the re-election calendar in mind. Increasing turn out among Latinos, who accounted for nearly one out of every 10 voters in 2008 and are even more heavily concentrated in key swing states, such as Florida, Nevada, New Mexico and Colorado, is a high priority for the Obama campaign. Obama received more than two out of every three Latino votes in 2008 and needs another strong performance with Latino voters to put him over the top in what is shaping up to be a close fight for re-election.

The reaction among national Republicans so far is a sign that they understand that they need to do better with Latinos. Rather than reprising his tough anti-immigrant policy positions and rhetoric from the primary campaign, Mitt Romney said he essentially shared the President’s goals, but believed by bypassing Congress the President had made achieving a long-term solution more difficult. The presumptive Republican Presidential nominee’s stance was echoed by Republican Congressional leaders.

Of course, this new Republican position is somewhat disingenuous. These same Congressional leaders have blocked the passage of the Dream Act and stood strongly against a comprehensive, long-term solution to the immigration problem. Still, any movement by today's Republicans towards the more inclusive and far-reaching solutions backed by Republican Presidents George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan is welcome news. A comprehensive permanent solution that combines tough border enforcement with a path to citizenship remains needed.

President Obama’s important executive actions positively impact nearly 1,000,000 young people with much to contribute to our nation and take us closer to the vision inspired by the Statue of Liberty. With the softening tone of the Republicans, let us hope it marks a new chapter in immigration policy -- one focused on a unified solution, not more divisive rhetoric.

Rob Horowitz is a strategic and communications consultant who provides general consulting, public relations, direct mail services and polling for national and state issue organizations, various non-profits and elected officials and candidates. He is an Adjunct Professor of Political Science at the University of Rhode Island.


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