By Reynold N. Mason JD
Atlanta Nov. 19, 2010. Immigration advocates are abuzz this week because of the news coming from the DREAM battleground in the senate. Senator Harry Reid, keeping his campaign promise made on the eve of his reelection, has reintroduced the DREAM Act in the senate. Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus are doing their part. Their representatives met with president Obama this week to nudge him forward and perhaps persuade him to back DREAM now. After the meeting the White House released a statement reasserting the president's support for the bill and calling on lawmakers to move it to a vote before this session concludes.
A tight schedule
The rush of activity is due to the tight schedule and the very narrow window of opportunity with which DREAM proponents must contend. Only 15 legislative days remain in this session. And come January when republicans take the reins of power in the house, they are likely to focus on the “Bush tax cuts” and other issues of more import to their base. The new congressional cast will, without a doubt, set different priorities, and DREAM does not figure to be at the top of their legislative agenda.
The majority of republicans elected in the midterms will likely join their colleagues turning their attention to border security and other enforcement measures. In the senate there are new faces untried and untested on the immigration battlefield. Their support is uncertain. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Chris Coons of Delaware and Mike Kirk of Illinois will be seated in this session. Kirk, in the debates leading up to the election, made clear his opposition to easing immigration restrictions. Some of the republican players in the senate who supported the bill in 2007 are still on the stage. But their commitment to the bill, after the last election, is now far from certain. Eleven republicans voted for DREAM in 2007. But some have retired or been replaced by new comers who may be unsympathetic to the bill. Comprehensive immigration was defeated 52-44 in 2007. It takes 60 votes to get cloture and move DREAM to a vote on the senate floor. Mr. Reid will need “a few good republicans” to join forces with him, assuming the democratic forces hold firm. All that changes come January. There are 58 democrats and 40 republicans now in the U.S. senate; senators Lieberman and Sanders are independents.
Objections to DREAM
The version of the bill proposed by President George W. Bush in 2007 was opposed by some who felt it would reward those who broke the law entering the country illegally. Labor unions opposed it because of its guest worker program; and Hispanics spoke out in opposition because they felt it would create an underclass of migrant laborers. Employers were opposed because the bill scrapped H- visas for highly skilled workers. The lessons learned from this failure must be put to good use if there is to be hope for DREAM this time around. Proponents must move in the direction of stricter enforcement of present immigration laws. Without that. polls tell us, Americans will be unwilling to confer any benefit on illegal immigrants, not even the innocent children the DREAM act is designed to help.