BRIDGEPORT — U.S. Senate candidate Linda McMahon Wednesday embraced one of the Dream Act’s paths to citizenship for undocumented immigrants but not the plank that would help the three young women who protested outside the campaign’s Fairfield Avenue office.
Twin sisters Carolina and Camila Bortolleto, 24, of Danbury and Yumi Perez, 21, of Bridgeport staged the small event as part of an effort by immigration supporters to press the Republican on her positions on reform. They argue McMahon, through visits and advertising, is trying to court urban minority voters in her contest with Democrat Chris Murphy even as she remains silent on policies affecting their undocumented friends and family members.
Murphy, a congressman representing the 5th District, including Danbury, supports the Dream Act, which would help undocumented immigrants like the Bortolletos and Perez, brought to the United States as children, obtain permanent residency upon completion of a college degree or two years of military service.
The Bortolletos, for example, both obtained degrees in biology but because of their undocumented status have been unable to obtain employment.
“We don’t know where she stands,” said Camila of McMahon.
Actually, McMahon during a Republican primary debate in April joined her four competitors in opposing the Dream Act.
But in a statement to Hearst Newspapers Wednesday McMahon, without specifically citing the Dream Act, said she backs the military service proposal.
“I support giving young people that are illegally here through no fault of their own and serve in the military a path to U.S. citizenship,” she said.
GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney has also embraced the position that undocumented immigrants should have the chance to obtain citizenship through military service.
McMahon also said she agreed with Democratic President Barack Obama’s stop-gap decision in June to, in lieu of congressional action on reforms like the Dream Act, temporarily halt the deportation of younger illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. as children and begin granting them work permits.
But, she added, immigration reform “should be comprehensive and not continue to be done in a piecemeal fashion.”
McMahon said if elected she would also support: strengthening border security and interior enforcement; requiring electronic Social Security cards; modifying and streamlining the process of admitting temporary workers with new visa categories for construction and service industries and provisions for existing undocumented workers; and adopting a merit-based system for green card and citizenship requirements that encourage foreign students graduating from top schools to stay.
After reading McMahon’s statement, Camila Bortolleto said she was glad McMahon backed Obama’s decision but disheartened she did not appear to fully embrace the Dream Act and extend it to students.
“I know people who are undocumented who want to joint the military but can’t,” Bortolleto said.
It is unclear how much of an impact immigration issues will have on the Connecticut race.
On the one hand a recent poll by Hartford-based company Pulso, dubbed the first ever of registered Latino voters in Connecticut, did not mention immigration as a top issue. Instead, respondents in the poll cited jobs, the economy, health care/insurance, energy prices and education.
But Connecticut, a reliably blue state, is fairly progressive when it comes to immigration matters. Last year state lawmakers passed legislation offering in-state tuition rates to undocumented college and university students.
And Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s administration earlier this year pushed back against Obama administration deportation efforts under the controversial Secure Communities program.
Because of their undocumented status, the Bortolletos and Perez cannot vote. But they said they hope to at least make a difference by drawing attention to immigration reform issues.
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