He passed the DREAM act in his state, allowing 36,000 undocumented to have access to in-state tuition and go to college. He has given driver’s licenses to the undocumented and has refused to have his state co-operate with deportation of immigrants who are crime free.
“On my desk, as I sit here, is a sign from Baltimore that says, ‘No Irish need apply,’” O’Malley told BuzzFeed. “My great-grandparents didn’t speak English but I think America is made better by people who come from elsewhere.”
He says that “our nation should have passed comprehensive immigration reform.”
“In the meantime what do you want?” he said. “Do you want them to be able to get to and from work or do you want them to drive without a license and god forbid you or your wife are involved [in an accident]? That doesn’t make a hell of a lot of sense.”
Buzzfeed points out that “Maryland has the lowest Hispanic unemployment rate at 5.1% (compared to 9.1% nationally), and the state has more than doubled contracts to Latino-owned businesses during his time as governor.”
O'Malley's work is being noticed by Hispanic leaders. Gustavo Torres, the executive director of CASA de Maryland, says “He’s very clearly the most pro-Latino and pro-immigrant governor in the country."
“He believes we are all immigrants, for centuries we are immigrants. He calls us new Americans because he believes it is a really good way to describe the contribution of the immigrant community.”
“If you think you can ignore immigration reform, then you are a fool, and Gov. O’Malley is not a fool,” said Matthew McClellan, executive director of the NCLR action fund.
O’Malley is accused by the GOP of pandering. Spokeswoman Izzy Santa stated:
“Winning elections is based on substance and so far Martin O’Malley is relying on Hispandering to win. Talking about immigration and hoping no one pays attention to his failed economic record will not overcompensate for his dismissal of the Hispanic community and attempts to play divisive racial politics.”
But Hispanic leaders are noticing.
“The guy represents the promise of American politics,” said Javier Palomarez, the president of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC). “If you look at the record, he increased contracting by Hispanics 133%, which stands in contrast to the abysmal attempt by the federal government.”
“America believes immigration is the only issue on the docket for Hispanics. We’re not monolithic, it’s not just immigration reform,” he said. “But if you look, [O’Malley] has led where others have not.”
Meanwhile Hillary Clinton is on everyone’s hot favorite list but O’Malley seems unafraid to challenge her. This weekend, he was in Iowa.
“In the past politicians, and those who report, create checklists to go through. Labor, check this; Hispanic constituency; Irish, check this,” he said. “What we need now is a better understanding of our story together and how these pieces need to be addressed to solve the big problem that’s on the table of how do we grow the middle class, how do we create enough jobs for this generation and the next, and how do we restore our economy so it once again has a human purpose.”
Others are more than willing to discuss O’Malley’s place in a potential 2016 field.
Gabriela Domenzain, former director of Hispanic press for Obama For America, said “He’s going to have an actual record, where other Democratic candidates can and should be contrasted,” she said. “He can say in those debates, ...’ ‘I passed the DREAM Act,’ not ‘I support it.’”