In the L.A. Times Tamar Jacoby (who is in favor of immigration reform) has a good Republican take on the non-citizenship DREAM Act proposed by Marco Rubio. She makes a number of points that echo a discussion I had in my Politics of Latino Immigration class yesterday (a somewhat more sluggish discussion than usual since student papers were due that day as well). She argues that Romney needs to jump on this because he can nail Democrats who claim to be in favor of reform yet oppose this bill in no small part because they do not want to give Republicans a boost on immigration in an election year.
Immigration will not decide this election but softening Romney's stance on immigration will help in a few key swing states with large numbers of eligible Latino voters. Passing this bill could neatly remove immigration from Obama's quiver during the campaign.
This isn't just the right thing to do. It would also help Romney solve his problem communicating with Latino voters. Truth is he has a lot to say that Latinos could find appealing — if they could hear him. But they can't hear him because some of what he says on immigration is so off-putting, many stop listening to the rest of his pitch.
For many Latinos, immigration is a threshold issue and Romney is stuck on the wrong side of the threshold. That's why he's doing so poorly among Latino voters, winning just 14% to President Obama's 70% in one poll.
However, she omits one critical point, namely that the non-citizenship aspect is ideological. Latinos vote Democratic overwhelmingly, so Republicans do not want to enfranchise a group that will vote against them. She is correct that the proposal does not rule out citizenship, but it does makes it extraordinarily difficult. From an immigrant point of view, however, that may be far preferable to the precarious undocumented status.
This last point is under-analyzed. We don't really know is what potential DREAMers and their families, along with Latino voters more broadly, think about the proposal. Is citizenship a deal breaker? My hunch is that it's not, but I'm sure we'll soon see polls to give us a clue.