Short and Longterm Impacts
The securing of many of the key benefits of the DREAM Act has
significant short and longterm political impacts.
Latino voter enthusiasm for President Obama skyrocketed after
he announced the new program, and will rise further as
implementation has now begun. The young beneficiaries cannot
vote, but their friends and family who are citizens can. These
voters understand that the continued ability of young
undocumented immigrants to legally work and live without
threat of deportation depends on Obama's re-election.
DREAM ACTivists also understand this, and it would not be
surprising to see many of them volunteering to help re-elect
Obama. Given their track record of hard work and dedication,
they could prove a major asset in mobilizing Latino voter
turnout in key states.
So the short-term impact of the new immigration law is huge. A
large Latino voter turnout for Obama decided the 2008 election
and will likely do so again in 2012. What is less discussed is
the longterm impact of Latino voter turnout once again giving
Democrats the White House.
Should Obama defeat Romney handily, as many now predict,
Republicans face an Electoral College nightmare. Simply put,
Republicans cannot win the White House by continually losing
70% of the Latino vote.
The Latino vote will prevent a Republican victory in 2016, and
by 2020, increased Latino voting will make Texas a swing if
not a blue state. Once Texas joins California as solidly
Democratic in presidential races, Republicans have no chance
of regaining the presidency.
Changing this future requires Republicans to return to their
pre-2008 position of supporting some version of immigration
reform that includes a path to legalization and citizenship
for all of the $8-12 million affected. The GOP will still lose
Latinos for other policy reasons, but they will not lose this
constituency in droves as occurred in 2008 and will happen
again this November.
Can Republicans risk alienating their anti-immigrant base?
They have no choice. And neither Wall Street nor the
billionaire funders of the GOP care about this issue.
By DREAM ACTivists forcing Obama to do the right thing, the
Latino electoral base can use this November to create a new
path toward comprehensive immigration reform. And when studies
show the positive economic impacts of the young people
benefiting from the new immigration policy, it will be even
harder for some Republicans to remain opposed.
Unlikely as it seemed only one year ago, the grassroots
campaign for the DREAM Act could change the political calculus
for enacting comprehensive reform before 2016. Immigrant
rights activists who had their expectations dashed after the
2008 elections may have a positive surprise coming after
[Randy Shaw is the author of The Activist's Handbook and
Beyond the Fields: Cesar Chavez, the UFW and the Struggle for
Justice in the 21st Century.]