Amid a burgeoning political arena for discussions surrounding education and immigration reform leading up to the 2012 presidential election, the oval office candidates may face hurdles in taking a strong stance on those controversial issues.
In an ABC News Green Room discussion Sunday, ABC News' George Will, former chairman of the Republican National Committee Mel Martinez, former chancellor of D.C. Public Schools Michelle Rhee and journalist Jose Vargas gathered to share their views on why the presidential candidates should tackle immigration reform in their platforms.
Congress has defeated or stymied passing the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act eight times in the last 10 years. The bill has been reintroduced in the Senate despite no Republican backing, and many -- including Vargas, an undocumented immigrant who is a former editor for The Huffington Post -- have called for the bill's support.
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan also pushed for greater awareness last week of the trials of undocumented students.
Under DREAM Act provisions, illegal immigrants under the age of 36 would be able to establish citizenship if they arrived in the United States as children, have lived here for five years or more and are currently attending college or serving in the military.
With the obstacles the bill has seen through Congress, ABC's William O'Connor asked the Green Room panel whether there is a future for the DREAM Act, to which Rhee responded:
"I certainly hope so. I see so many students across the country who are working hard, they are able to graduate from high school and unable to go on to college because they are undocumented illegal immigrants. If we want to live up to this country's ideals and values, we have to give those kids an opportunity. Most importantly because we cannot, I think, make kids suffer for decisions that were made by people other than them. We have to focus on what's right for those kids."
As for how to address these issues in 2012, Martinez noted that the key to educational and immigration reform issues like the DREAM Act is ensuring that voters and key players better understand the proposals' provisions and goals -- which are to give "blameless children" an education.
So how much will we see immigration come up in 2012 campaigns? Will said:
"Very little, because no one wants to talk about it. And if they don't want to, they won't."
And to appease the aversion toward hitting the hard topics of immigration and education, Rhee said constituents must "encourage more courage" among politicians to have a clear vision for these reforms, but did not offer a specific suggestion for how voters can further incentivize politicians.
Will responded to Rhee:
"Michelle, good luck on changing this dynamic. The axiom in Washington is you can't do anything in an election year or before an election year, and that's every year."
This post has been updated to include ABC's William O'Connor.
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