Illegal Immigration Stakes Out Lower Rung on Campaign Trail

One of President Obama's most controversial directives went into effect today as thousands of young illegal immigrants were able to apply for deferred enforcement status.

Yet even though this policy bypassed Congress' refusal to pass a DREAM Act, the landmark queues outside immigration offices around the country barely made a dent on the campaign trail.

If Mitt Romney had selected Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) as his vice presidential pick it would be the political topic of the day, with Rubio highlighting his alternative, as-yet-unveiled plan for DREAMers while taking heat from immigration-enforcement advocates on the right.

Instead, it was the left's day to herald the policy as a civil-rights achievement while it went largely unnoticed by others.

“I hope Republicans, especially those who expressed willingness to help these young people, will support the administration’s efforts to provide them with a reprieve while Congress works out a path forward," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). "The president can only do so much administratively."

The closest Republicans got to talking about immigration was in the context of the main topic of this campaign: jobs.

"Legal immigration is the lifeblood of this country but it is not, it is not going to solve the current 8.3 percent unemployment problem Mitt Romney has been talking about," Romney surrogate and former New Hampshire Gov. John Sununu said Tuesday. "It is not going to address the lack of incentives for investment in this country."

The Hispanic Caucus welcomed Wednesday's start of the immigration application process for those brought to the country illegally as children, offering FAQs in English and Spanish on the new deferred action program.

“For far too long these young people were unfairly penalized by the inaction and obstructionism of Republicans in Congress," said caucus chairman Charles Gonzalez (D-Texas). "But now, thanks to the steps taken by President Obama and his administration, young people who have been raised in this country, educated in our schools, and who pledge allegiance to our flag will now be shielded from the threat of deportation and qualify for basic protections to allow them to more fully contribute to this country.”

"Those kids are going to line up by the thousands today. By the hundreds of thousands they will receive their work permits," Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), chairman of the caucus' immigration task force, said on CNN this morning. "Here's what we've learned in America. If you live in secrecy and if you live in the shadows, then you are truly at risk of being deported and harmed by the government."

"The young people have gone out there, shown who they are, spoken to you and the press and shown America, two-thirds of Americans agree with the president's decision," he added.

"Let us help these young DREAMers pursue their calling as they begin this process that will forever change their lives and our country,” Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-Texas) said. “I welcome this day and support this effort fully.”

With a little hashtag promotional help from the Hispanic Caucus, "deferred" was a trending topic on Twitter and immigration advocacy groups provided hub pages with links to the necessary forms and information. The caucus fielded questions during a Twitter town hall and Democratic lawmakers issued tweets of elation and support or joined constituents at events.