Debate about immigration status will be intense
The political uproar has started over the de facto implementation of what has become known as the DREAM Act.
While the proposed legislation to provide a way for children of illegal immigrants to have legal status in the United States has been stalled in Congress for more than a decade, the Obama administration plans to go forward with most provisions of the act without legislative approval.
This is being accomplished through a change in immigration policies made by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, headed by former Arizona governor Janet Napolitano. She said Friday that younger illegal immigrants brought here as children will be exempt from deportation and will be able to legally live and work in the United States if they meet certain specified conditions.
Supporters of the DREAM Act were elated and opponents were outraged. There will undoubtedly be an extended and heated political debate.
Here in our state, however, there are indications a lot of Arizonans support the DREAM Act in principle.
A recent survey of registered voters by Arizona State University's Merrill/Morrison Institute found significant backing for giving children of illegal families legal consideration as proposed by the DREAM Act. In fact, 73 percent of non-Hispanic whites supported it, with many strongly supporting it. About the same percentage of Hispanics like the act.
Those surveyed were Republicans, Democrats and independents.
At first the outcome may seem odd, given that a majority of Arizonans in other polls have shown a desire that the borders be secured and have supported Arizona's controversial SB 1070 legislation against illegal immigration.
The reason, however, seems to be that they believe those brought here as children had no choice in the matter and should not be forced to suffer consequences from the act.
In making her announcement, Napolitano said she was doing it because it would free up Homeland Security resources to deal with serious security issues and because “many of these young people have already contributed to our country in significant ways.”
In the end, she said, “it is simply the right thing to do.”
Based on the Merrill/Morrison poll, a lot of Arizonans agree. We certainly do.