CHARLOTTE, N.C. – To Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton, an approach to illegal immigration that includes the DREAM Act makes good business sense.
“From my perspective, the DREAM Act is good economic policy as we increase trade with Mexico, Latin America, as we increase the number of jobs associated with that,” he said Tuesday. “The more we can do in that regard the better off we’ll be.”
Delegates to the Democratic National Convention were set Tuesday to endorse a platform that doesn’t explicitly endorse the DREAM Act but calls for “comprehensive immigration reform that supports our economic goals and reflects our values as both a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants.”
Stanton and other Arizona delegates said the DREAM Act is integral to the party’s approach to immigration reform.
The DREAM Act would allow many people brought illegally to the U.S. as children a pathway to citizenship if they enroll in college or serve two years in the military.
In June, Obama signed an executive order allowing people who would fall under the DREAM Act to apply for renewable two-year work permits.
The Democratic Party’s immigration goals stand in contrast to the Republican Party’s platform adopted the week before.
The GOP called on the federal government to drop lawsuits against states like Arizona opposing strict immigration policies. It also called for a border fence and denying funding to so-called sanctuary cities and to universities that offer in-state tuition to illegal immigrants.
Emily Verdugo, a delegate from Coolidge and a Democratic candidate for state House, said the GOP is scared of the growing Latino population.
“I really believe it’s fear that a culture or a socio-economic status will have more power than they do,” Verdugo said. “That’s the only way they can control it, is through fear.”
Gov. Jan Brewer’s office didn’t respond to phone calls seeking comment on the Democratic platform.
Arizona Democratic Party spokesman Frank Camacho said state Republicans use immigration to scare voters but that primary losses by immigration hardliners Russell Pearce and Ron Gould show that immigration is losing its punch as a political issue.
“The Republicans have not gotten it yet that the vast majority of Arizonans want comprehensive immigration reform,” Camacho said. “The DREAM Act is an integral part of any comprehensive immigration reform.”
U.S. Rep. Ed Pastor, D-Phoenix, said the federal approach to illegal immigration needs to cover more than just young people.
“I support the DREAM Act, obviously, but we also have to deal with the parents and the siblings,” he said.
Dulce Matuz, president of the Arizona Dream Act Coalition, a youth-led group that fights for educational and immigrant rights, is in Charlotte attending events and protests. She said Democrats appear to support the DREAM Act, but she added that she doesn’t trust either party to act without pressure.
“For me it’s not enough when people say they support the DREAM Act or say they’re going to pass it,” Matuz said in a phone interview. “I’ve been hearing that for the past three years. I want to see action.”
Stanton said he is confident the DREAM Act will happen because it has to.
“We’re going to pass comprehensive immigration reform, we’re going to pass the DREAM Act,” he said. “Bringing people out of the shadows and into the economy, paying taxes as they should, getting to the back of the line, not the front of the line, paying an appropriate penalty, that’s just good common-sense public policy, particularly for a state like Arizona.”