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Mitt Romney Allegedly Pulls Back Handshake Upon Learning That DREAM Act Advocate Is Undocumented

First Posted: 01/18/12 05:22 PM ET Updated: 01/18/12 06:55 PM ET

NEW YORK -- Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney suddenly pulled back his hand after hearing that a young college student who greeted him at a New York fundraiser Tuesday night was undocumented, according to DREAM Act activists.

"He extended his hand to shake mine," the young woman told The Huffington Post. "But once I said I was undocumented, he pulled his hand away from me."

The 19-year-old college student, who asked to be identified only as Lucy because of her undocumented status, said she was also booed by Romney supporters as she was escorted out of a New York City fundraiser. One of the supporters told her to "go back to Mexico," and she responded that she was "actually from Peru," according to her account of the event.

The Romney campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the alleged incident.

Lucy was among nearly a dozen young protesters who are advocates of a bill that would provide legal status to some undocumented immigrants who entered the United States as children. Three students, including Lucy, went into the Sheraton New York Hotel and Towers, where the fundraiser was held, to ask the presidential hopeful why he "didn't support their dreams." The other demonstrators waited outside, carrying placards with messages such as, "DREAM ACT NOW. ROMNEY IS NOT A FRIEND TO LATINOS. NY VETOES ROMNEY."

In a video shared with The Huffington Post, the college student taped part of her encounter with the GOP frontrunner on her cell phone, although their hands are not visible on the recording. She can be heard asking Romney if he would support the DREAM Act. The candidate responded that he already said publicly that he would veto the legislation.

Romney was talking when Lucy interjects that she did not come to the country illegally. She told HuffPost later that she was brought to the United States when she was 9 years old on a travel visa by her mother. On the video, Lucy tells the Republican candidate that she had a 4.0 grade point average in college.

"That's wonderful," Romney replied before being ushered away from the young woman by his staffers, one of whom can be seen moving in between the young activist and the candidate.

The young college student said she was on track to graduate with a degree in broadcast journalism in three years. Her mother, who Lucy says brought her to the United States for a better life, works as a housekeeper in New York City. Like other DREAM Act advocates at the protest, Lucy said she worries that she will not be able to work after she graduates from college if she does not have the required papers.

Those in Lucy's position are permitted to return to their home country and apply for legal status, but under current law, many face three or 10-year bans to reentering the country. The long wait times make it difficult, if not impossible, to return, and many young people in Lucy's position do not see returning to their home country to enter the United States legally as a viable option.

Another protester at the Romney fundraiser was Jong Min, a 32-year-old man from South Korea, who said he represents another face of the DREAM Act.

"The DREAM Act is not just a Mexican issue. It's not just a Latino issue. It's an immigrant issue. It's everybody's issue," Min told HuffPost.

After graduating from the University of Tennessee magna cum laude, Min said he was only able to find jobs at grocery stores and in construction work because higher level work mandated documents that he could not provide. He said he was brought to the United States as a one-year-old by his mother, a fact he only discovered when he applied to a residency program at a hospital while he was a student at Stuyvesant High School in New York City.

"My mom told me my whole life I had a green card. I went home that day in search of this mythical, magical green card, and I never found it. I had no clue that I was undocumented until I was 17," Min said.

Min added that he is frustrated he cannot contribute to society because of his immigration status.

"What happens after all that education?" he asked. "I spent all of my life working towards something, and now I can't even use what I have to offer."

Standing outside the hotel during Romney's fundraising event, Jong Min, Lucy and other Dream Act advocates loudly voiced their disapproval of a candidate who said he would veto legislation that would permit them to remain in the U.S.

"Veto Romney! Veto Romney!," they chanted in unison.

The group said that while they cannot vote because of their undocumented status, they do not think Romney would be able to win over Latinos -- an important voting block in many states -- without supporting the DREAM Act.

Some pollsters argue that Latinos, the nation's fastest growing minority group, decided the 2008 election in favor of President Obama in key swing states like Florida. While Obama won 67 percent of the Latino vote in 2008, George W. Bush won nearly half of the Latino vote in 2004.

According to a recent Pew Hispanic Center report, 91 percent of Latinos support the DREAM Act. Ruben Gallego, a state representative in Arizona, said in a teleconference last week that the DREAM Act will be a particularly emotional issue for the community in the 2012 election.

"This is about our kids. Attacking the DREAM Act, and attacking our kids, is really not a wise political move for Republicans," he said.

Tuesday night's protesters echoed Gallego's assertion.

As Romney quickly ducked into his car, the protesters chanted, "Latinos do not support Romney. Latinos do not support Romney."

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  • The Template: California Proposition 187 (1994)

    California's Proposition 187 was submitted to the voters with the full support of then Republican governor Pete Wilson. It essentially blamed undocumented immigrants for the poor performance of the state economy in the early 1990s. The law called for cutting off benefits to undocumented immigrants: prohibiting their access to health care, public education, and other social services in California. It also required state authorities to report anyone who they suspected was undocumented. <strong>Status:</strong> The law passed with the support of 55 percent of the voters in 1994 but declared unconstitutional 1997. The law was killed in 1999 when a new governor, Democrat Gray Davis, refused to appeal a judicial decision that struck down most of the law. Even though short-lived, the legislation paved the way for harsher immigration laws to come. On the other hand, the strong reaction from the Hispanic community and immigration advocates propelled a drive for naturalization of legal residents and created as many as one million new voters.

  • The Worst: Arizona SB 1070

    The Arizona Act made it a misdemeanor for an undocumented immigrant to be within the state lines of Arizona without legal documents allowing their presence in the U.S. The law was widely criticized as xenophobic and for encouraging racial profiling. It required state authorities to inquire about an individual's immigration status during an arrest when there was "reasonable suspicion" that the individual was undocumented. The law would allow police to detain anyone who they believed was in the country illegally. <strong>Status:</strong> The law was signed into law by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer on April 23, 2010, immediately generating a swirl of controversy and questions about its constitutionality. In July 2010 and February 2012, federal judges blocked different provisions of SB 1070, setting the stage for the <a href="" target="_hplink">the Supreme Court decision of June 25, 2012</a> which struck down multiple provisions but upheld the controversial "papers please" provision, a centerpiece of the law which critics say will lead to racial profiling

  • Following Arizona's Footsteps: Georgia HB 87

    The controversy over Arizona's immigration law was followed by heated debate over Georgia's own law. HB 87 required government agencies and private companies to check the immigration status of applicants. This law also limited some government benefits to people who could prove their legal status. <strong>Status:</strong> Although a federal judge temporarily blocked parts of the law considered too extreme, it went into effect on July 1st. 2011. House: 113-56 Senate: 39-17

  • Verifying Authorized Workers: Pennsylvania HB 1502

    This bill, which was approved in 2010, bans contractors and subcontractors employ undocumented workers from having state construction contracts. The bill also protects employees who report construction sites that hire illegal workers. To ensure that contractors hire legal workers, the law requires employers to use the identification verification system E-verify, based on a compilation of legally issued Social Security numbers. <strong>Status:</strong> Approved on June 8th 2010. House: 188-6 (07/08/2010) <a href="" target="_hplink">Flickr photo by DonkeyHotey</a>

  • A Spin Off of Arizona: Utah HB 497

    Many states tried to emulate Arizona's SB 1070 law. However, most state legislatures voted against the proposals. Utah's legislature managed to approve an immigration law based on a different argument. Taking into consideration the criticism of racial profiling in Arizona, Utah required ID cards for "guest workers" and their families. In order to get such a card workers must pay a fee and have clean records. The fees go up to $2,500 for immigrants who entered the country illegally and $1,000 for immigrants who entered the country legally but were not complying with federal immigration law, <a href="" target="_hplink">according to the LA Times.</a> <strong>Status: </strong> Law went into effect on 03/15/2011 House: 59-15 (03/04/2011) Senate: 22-5 (03/04/2011)

  • The Most Comprehensive: Florida HB-1C

    Florida's immigration law prohibits any restrictions on the enforcement of federal immigration law. It makes it unlawful for undocumented immigrants within the state to apply for work or work as an independent contractor. It forbids employers from hiring immigrants if they are aware of their illegal status and requires work applicants to go through the E-verify system in order to check their Social Security number. <strong>Status: </strong>effective since October 1st, 2010

  • The Hot Seat: Alabama HB 56

    The new immigration law in Alabama is considered the toughest in the land, even harder than Arizona's SB 1070. It prohibits law enforcement officers from releasing an arrested person before his or her immigration status is determined. It does not allow undocumented immigrants to receive any state benefit, and prohibits them from enrolling in public colleges, applying for work or soliciting work in a public space. The law also prohibits landlords from renting property to undocumented immigrants, and employers from hiring them. It requires residents to prove they are citizens before they become eligible to vote. The law asked every school in the state to submit an annual report with the number of presumed undocumented students, but this part, along with others, were suspended by federal courts. <strong>Status:</strong> Approved June 2nd, 2011 House: 73-28 (04/05/2011) Senate: 23-11 (05/05/2011) <a href="" target="_hplink">Flickr photo by longislandwins</a>