Conservatives shouldn’t let Obama stop them from backing goals of Rubio’s DREAM Act

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor
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Over the years, I’ve written a lot about my contrarian conservative positions on immigration.

I opposed the Arizona law — wrote about how more immigrants = less socialism — and gave conservatives five reasons to support more (legal) Hispanic immigration. More recently, I backed Rubio’s DREAM Act.

But I also reacted negatively to President Obama’s decision to co-opt the goals of Rubio’s plan, by bypassing Congress to do it.

Almost immediately after his order became public, I predicted it would undermine Rubio’s efforts to pass long-term bipartisan legislation, via the legislative process. (My suspicions were confirmed when media outlets reported Rubio was backing away from the plan.)

Rubio’s hesitation is understandable. The immigration debate almost derailed John McCain’s presidential bid in 2007, and most certainly helped destroy Rick Perry’s in 2011. If Rubio’s support of this legislation was a profile in courage before Obama inserted himself into the debate, now the issue would be even more toxic and complicated among his conservative base. What good would it do for him to waste political capital being courageous if it’s just a fool’s errand — meaning that he has little reason to believe Democrats would negotiate in good faith, and little reason to believe Congress would pass it.

So I understand if Rubio has to table his legislation until after the election. But that doesn’t mean conservatives — those of us who support the legislation, at least — shouldn’t continue championing the goals. The natural inclination, of course, is for conservative supporters of Rubio’s DREAM to now change their tune.

But to do that is to fall into Obama’s trap (and make no mistake, he did this for political purposes.)

Earlier today, I reported on a memo being circulated to conservative leaders, warning that attacking Obama over this issue could alienate Hispanics. I’m not sure I agree with that exactly, but I do think the bigger danger is that conservatives let Obama’s support of the goals of Rubio’s DREAM Act cause them to reflexively oppose the goals.

That’s what Obama wants.

Matt K. Lewis