President Obama has clearly stolen the show with his courageous decision to implement what would have been the DREAM Act, if five more Democratic Senators had had the guts to join their colleagues and three moderate Republicans in voting for cloture in the face of a Republican filibuster. But before we get carried away by enthusiasm for the president's initiative, we should take a closer look.
Let us assume that the various administrative issues involved in making sure that the president's memo on DREAM is actually implemented are resolved. Let us also assume that President Obama, who is famous for wanting to have it both ways on every issue, does not decide to make up for his leniency toward the DREAMER's by cracking down even harder on the other 10 million or so unauthorized immigrants who are not eligible for deferred action under the president's memo.
After all, 400,000 is still 400,000. Has the president said anything about planning to reduce his deportation quotas by the amount of people eligible for deferred action under DREAM? Whom else will the president and DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano tell ICE to go after in order to make sure that the magic quota number of deportations is reached?
In addition, Obama's DREAM initiative may be a race against time. There might be two possible scenarios as to how long President Obama's memo would last if Mitt Romney takes over the White House. According to one, which I would call the Republican primary, hard line, Mitt Romney-Kris Kobach scenario, deferred action on DREAM might last until breakfast on Romney's inauguration day.
However, there is a more "optimistic" scenario, which I would call the "Romney Reset" scenario. According to this scenario, President Obama's DREAM memo would remain in force until lunch time on the same day. (I also agree with ID's June 20 editorial that the so called "Rubio DREAM Act" is merely a decoy. The Republicans have no intent whatsoever of seeing any version of DREAM enacted into law. The "vetting" of Rubio himself for VP is nothing more tha a public relations ploy to trick Latino voters.)
There is no good reason to think that a virtually monolithic Republican party, already almost completely purged of the few moderates who may have briefly survived the Tea Party, just as the dinosaurs briefly survived into the mammalian period, is suddenly going to change its one-note tune on immigration.
Whatever Romney's personal weather vane may make him inclined to do about immigration in general, or DREAM in particular, on any given day or moment in time, if he wins this fall's election, it will be with the help of extreme right wing anti-immigrant, anti-Latino voters (who are none too friendly either toward Asian immigrants, now reportedly outnumbering Latino immigrants). Can Romney be expected suddenly to turn against this crucial right-wing extremist, anti-immigrant voting bloc if he takes over the White House?
Romney has also promised to drop federal lawsuits against the immigrant persecution laws in Arizona, Alabama and other states, assuming that any of these lawsuits are still viable after the expected Supreme Court decision upholding Arizona's Wo sind Ihre Papiere? ("Hand over your papers!") law this week or next week.
He is also likely to drop any federal attempts to block minority voter suppression laws or activities that are now in effect in Florida and many other states. To the contrary, a Romney administration could be expected to support minority voter suppression, just as the Bush administration did. But voter suppression may not be the greatest of Obama's re-election worries.
The media are now full of reports that the Obama campaign is being seriously (or, to use Romney's term, "severely") outspent by the billionaire Republican super-pacs. To borrow a phrase from Virgil, ponto nox incubat atra ("black night hangs over the sea"). The same could be said about America's democracy. In Virgil's Aeneid (Book 1), an aquae mons ("mountain of water") threatens to drown the Trojan sailors. In today's America, a mountain of right wing super-pac money threatens to drown America's election system.
Virgil, speaking of the same storm at sea, also writes: eripiunt subito nubes caelumque diemque/Teucrorum ex oculis ("suddenly, the storm clouds snatch away sky and daylight from the eyes of the Trojans"). Will the storm clouds of Citizens United snatch away this November's election from the hearts and minds of America's voters, and with it, any hope for fairness and justice for immigrants and an end to the xenophobia and bigotry which have blocked immigration reform until now?
Roger Algase is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School. He has been practicing business immigration law in New York City for more than 20 years.