CHARLOTTE — The Democratic Party is highlighting President Obama’s commitment to the DREAM Act in the clearest way possible: They’re putting a DREAMer on stage.
Benita Veliz, a high-profile member of the club of residents brought to America illegally as children and raised here for much of their lives, will take the stage Wednesday night in support of Obama’s executive order granting temporary residence status to her and others like her.
The DREAM Act has emerged as a great divide between Obama and Mitt Romney. While some Republicans like Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) have expressed interest in creating a structure where people like Veliz can earn some sort of legal status through education, military service or other means, Romney has steadfastly opposed the existing DREAM Act and only hinted at interest in shifting to the left on the matter.
Polling suggests that the public stands with Obama on DREAM and backs his efforts to move the DREAM process forward.
Republicans — who recently included several strict anti-immigration planks in their platform, including one that would cut off government funding for schools that provide discounted tuition to illegal immigrants — have struggled to gain support among Hispanic voters this year, despite the efforts of leaders like Rubio and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. A Latino Decisions poll of Hispanics taken after the end of the Republican convention in Tampa (which featured a number of high-profile Hispanic Republican speakers) found 72 percent of respondents “think the Republican Party either ‘doesn’t care’ or is ‘being hostile’ towards Hispanics.”
Democrats hope to capitalize on their advantage with Hispanics Wednesday when Veliz takes the stage. Her story is a veritable fairy tale for supporters of the DREAM Act, as described neatly in this 2011Huffington Post profile:
After her parents brought her to Texas from Mexico at the age [of 8], Veliz graduated from high school two years early as a National Merit Scholar and as her class valedictorian. She then graduated from St. Mary’s University, which she attended on a full academic merit scholarship.
Veliz will be speaking in the 9 p.m. hour, following a video on immigration policy.
Veliz drew national attention in 2009 when the government threatened to deport her after she ran a stop sign. The case was later dropped after public outcry, and Veliz became a household name among Hispanic rights advocates. Now she’ll take that fame to the next level, becoming the public face of the Democratic commitment to DREAM Wednesday night.