It is no secret that the Republican presidential candidates are not fanatics of the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, commonly known as the Dream Act. The bill that would provide a path to citizenship for undocumented people younger than 35 who serve in the military or go to college has been a point of contention among Congress members for over a decade, and now even the running candidates have given their stance on the matter. All three candidates have demonstrated that they would support only the military portion of the Dream Act. This idea is quite offensive to many of those who would qualify since what they want most is to go to college to be able to make a better future for themselves. “That’s telling me I’m good enough to die for this country, but I’m not good enough to study for it and to help it through my knowledge,” said a 25 year old activist who is a “dreamer.” The Migration Policy Institute in Washington estimates that at least 2 million undocumented youths could benefit from the Dream Act. But the co-director of the Institute’s National Center on Immigration Integration Policy, Margie McHugh, said a lot fewer would qualify for the military because of its strict educational and English-language requirements. That is why it is hard to imagine that it would be worth passing this legislation if it were to only affect such a small number of people.
The Dream Act should be about more than just the military, said Dulce Matuz, president of the Arizona Dream Act Coalition. She said it’s meant for students who want to fight for the country with their bodies and minds. “We need intelligent and talented individuals in this nation, and we’ve go to respect their decision to join the military or become a scientists,” she said. For her, it is important that the candidates know the consequences laden in their statements. “We’re going to be informing the Latino community about the facts, even for President Obama—we’re holding accountable the Republicans and Democrats alike.” If the candidates keep speaking the way they are now, she said, the Latino community won’t vote for them. But in an interview for Univision, Republican candidate Newt Gingrich said he is not worried about losing the Latino voters: “I have a hunch that by this fall, we may do better than any other Republican, except maybe Reagan.” However, according to Rodolfo Espino, a professor of political science at Arizona State University, this is not likely. “They’ve pretty much blown that opportunity to cater to the Latino vote. But that doesn’t mean President Obama is a shoo-in for the general election,” he said, “Democrats cannot just sit there and assume Latino voters are going to rush into the arms of the Democratic Party.” Democrats need to show Latinos that they’re serious about immigration reform and showing support that would ultimately lead in the passing of the Dream Act in its original form would be a very good start.