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Illegal Immigration Stakes Out Lower Rung on Campaign Trail

The news section of the Department of Homeland Security website led with a Spanish-language press release about the policy going into effect.

“USCIS has developed a rigorous review process for deferred action requests under guidelines issued by Secretary Napolitano,” said USCIS Director Alejandro Mayorkas. “Childhood arrivals who meet the guidelines and whose cases are deferred will now be able to live without fear of removal, and be able to more fully contribute their talents to our great nation.”

The DREAMers didn't just get moral support, either. Two days ago, New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver announced a $450,000 cash infusion toward helping those eligible take full advantage of the program through three grants to the New York Immigration Coalition, Make the Road NY, and Legal Services NYC.

For the White House and Obama campaign, as the president rolled through stops in Iowa, the day the enforcement was deferred passed quietly.

While Obama's move was seen widely at the time as a political maneuver to garner favor with coveted Latino voters, his relative silence on the policy now indicates he may see it as more of a potential liability in the greater campaign than a plus. He may be hoping that Romney loses terrain if he makes comments to the effect of wanting to repeal the residency provisions and putting the thousands of jubilant youths who came forward and applied at risk of deportation.

A June 25 Gallup poll found that just 12 percent of Hispanic registered voters put immigration policies at the top of their list of concerns, behind healthcare and unemployment. Among all U.S. registered voters, immigration ranks at just 5 percent.

In a Bloomberg poll of likely voters conducted in mid-June after Obama's announcement, 64 percent agreed with the new deferment policy.

As Romney didn't pick a running mate associated with the issue of immigration, Obama's campaign is likely content to let the DREAM Act linger in the background rather than risk getting hammered on an executive fiat. And if healthcare is a top issue with Latino voters, who already strongly favor Obama, the rollout of new ObamaCare freebies this summer gives enough timing for voters who may be influenced by the lack of co-payments on women's health procedures and birth control to notice before Election Day.

Today, Romney for President and the Republican National Committee released a new Spanish-language TV ad, "No Podemos Mas," telling the community that it can't take more of Obama's economic policies.

The battle over the immigration policy is just beginning with conservatives in the House, as Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) has promised to take the administration to court on charges that it overstepped its authority.

But today, as long lines of deferment applicants trailed down sidewalks, the executive version of the DREAM Act was less than an afterthought on the campaign trail -- portending where the once-boiling issue of illegal immigration will fall from here to November.