Why Clinton is enlisting undocumented immigrants who can't vote

The Clinton campaign is introducing a voter registration program by 'DREAMers' that empowers undocumented immigrants, as a way to show her stance on immigration policies.

Chris Keane/Reuters
A supporter cheers for Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton during a campaign rally in Saint Petersburg, Florida August 8, 2016.

Hillary Clinton's campaign announced Sunday that they would be recruiting a so-called "DREAMers," undocumented immigrants who were brought to the country as children, to help with the campaign.

But since "DREAMers" are undocumented, they're not allowed to vote.

The name "DREAMer" comes from the so-called DREAM Act, a legislative proposal that has been repeatedly been introduced in various forms since it was first proposed in 2001. DREAM stands for Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors. While each version of the legislation that has been introduced has varied considerably in details, all versions of the act would provide an easier path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children as long as certain qualifications are met.

The DREAM Act failed to pass Congress multiple times, but the "DREAMers" have become an increasingly important voice in American politics.

In 2012, President Obama announced the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy, which temporarily halted deportation of undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as children. As the Monitor previously reported, the DACA policy was largely the result of advocacy from DREAMers themselves after federal DREAM legislation failed to gain traction. 

As of March 2015, nearly 665,000 individuals had been granted the two-year work permit and exemption from deportation. Attempts by the Obama administration to expand the program in 2014 have been blocked in federal court by 26 states filing to stop it.

Now, Hillary Clinton's campaign want to tap into DREAMer advocacy in her campaign against Donald Trump. The Democratic nominee for president seeks "to empower DREAMers to organize and engage their communities, and secure commitments to vote for their future in November," according to the Clinton campaign.

The program is called "Mi Sueño, Tu Voto" ("My Dream, Your Vote"). The aim is to get DREAMers to encourage others to register to vote for Hillary Clinton on the basis of her immigration policy. The program launch coincides with the four-year anniversary of the implementation of DACA, which Clinton says she will extend in addition to expanding the rights of undocumented immigrants, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

"DREAMers have played a pivotal role in our campaign, advocating for families who constantly live in fear of deportation – so we've created a program that aims to turn these stories into action. We founded this program on the premise that, one by one – through friends, families, co-workers or classmates – DREAMers' futures would be considered on Election day," Lorella Praeli, Clinton's national director of the Latino Vote, said in a statement to The Hill.

The Clinton campaign's evocation of Obama's pro-DREAMer policy clearly puts the Democratic candidate in the same ideological vein as President Obama on issues of immigration. It also clearly puts Clinton strongly against Donald Trump's anti-immigration and pro-deportation policies.

Trump has promised to build a wall between the US and Mexican border and deport all 11 million people living in the country illegally. But in June, when asked if he intended mass deportations, Trump replied: "No, I would not call it mass deportations...We are going to get rid of a lot of bad dudes who are here. That I can tell you," reported The Hill.

Trump's polling numbers with Latino voters are lower than any other Republican presidential candidate since 1996, according to the Associated Press. This may spell trouble for his campaign, since a record 27.3 million Latino voters will be eligible to vote in the upcoming presidential election, according to the Pew Research Center.

Clinton's "Mi Sueño, Tu Voto" campaign will be holding events throughout the week in states with growing Hispanic populations.

One supporter of the idea is Astrid Slivia, a Nevada immigrant rights activist, according to The Washington Post.

"We may not have the right to vote, but 'Mi Sueño, Tu Voto' will help ensure that our stories are heard, and it will send a clear signal to Donald Trump that we cannot be silenced." 

The empowerment of young, undocumented immigrants may also take advantage of a strong base of young people who are turning away from Trump. Support for Trump among people under 35 is extremely low, at about 20 percent, with 56 percent supporting Clinton, according to a recent USA TODAY/Rock the Vote Poll. In short, if young DREAMers encourage their peers to vote, the Clinton campaign could solidify leads among both Hispanic and young voters.

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