What Will Happen to DREAMers if Romney Wins?

PHOTO: Rodriguezbogieharmond/Flickr
New York City Councilman Ydanis Rodríguez joins Occupy Wall Street protesters in Union Square in March 2012.

How will young undocumented immigrants fare if Mitt Romney is elected president?

For starters, anyone who has already paid for President Barack Obama's deferred action program -- which allows DREAMers to live and work in the U.S. through 2014 and possibly longer -- will be allowed to keep that temporary reprieve, according to a Romney campaign advisor.

But immediately after taking office in January, the former Massachusetts governor would end the program, the advisor said today. That would leave DREAMers who haven't been approved more vulnerable to deportation and without legal permission to work.

According to the latest data from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, 82,361 deferred action applications have been accepted for processing during a one-month period since the program's enactment in mid-August. An analysis by the Migration Policy Institute estimates that as many as 1.7 million undocumented immigrants could be eligible for the program, which means there are still lots of people who would feel the impact of a policy shift.

Both Romney and Obama support a permanent legislative fix for DREAMers, but any change in federal law would need to go through Congress. The last time that body enacted a large-scale immigration reform bill was the 1986 amnesty by President Reagan, which put three million people on a path to citizenship.

Romney's strategy would be to end deferred action and push for the passage of legislation similar to a bill outlined, but never formally introduced, by Florida Senator Marco Rubio this spring. According to a Romney campaign advisor, such a bill would allow DREAMers who meet certain qualifications to work and live in the U.S., but would not provide a path to citizenship.

The bill would be more or less the same idea as deferred action, but on a permanent basis. Unlike President Obama's deferred action, Romney's plan would need the approval of Congress.

"[T]his is something that's going to have to be worked out by the Republicans and Democrats together," Romney said at one of two candidate events hosted by Univision. "I will lead a program that gets us to a permanent solution as opposed to what was done by the president which, with a few months before the election, he puts in place something which is temporary, which does not solve this issue."

President Obama, for his part, supports the DREAM Act, a bill that would create a pathway to citizenship for a broader swath of young undocumented immigrants than the legislation sketched by Rubio. In 2010, the DREAM Act passed in the House of Representatives, but did not garner the support needed to break a Republican filibuster in the Senate.

During Obama's first campaign, he promised to enact immigration reform, something he called his "biggest failure" during his candidate forum on Univision. Romney, for his part, does not support what he considers amnesty -- a pathway to citizenship for the estimated 11 million undocumented people living in the U.S.

Obama for America predictably didn't give Romney an inch on his deferred action position in a release issued today:

"What, in Mitt Romney's mind, makes a young immigrant less deserving of this temporary reprieve from deportation on January 20th than he is on October third?" the release stated. "This latest clarification is yet another reminder to Hispanics that Mitt Romney is the most extreme presidential nominee on immigration in modern history and is against any sensible solution to fix our broken immigration system."