Senator Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), nearing the end of his reelection campaign last month, told Univision’s Jorge Ramos that, win or lose, he would bring up the DREAM Act during lame duck session. This week, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi threw her support behind Sen. Reid, also advocating for a DREAM vote during lame duck. The DREAM Act, an immigration bill that would provide legal status to young people who graduate from high school and pursue college or military service, failed to reach a vote this September after Senate Republicans blocked the Defense Authorization Act, the bill which carried the DREAM Act as an amendment. Now many immigration advocates are looking down the legislative road and say bringing DREAM to a vote during lame duck—when Democrats still have the House and Senate—is the bill’s best chance of becoming law.
According to the Arizona Republic:
If Reid can nudge the Dream Act through the Senate while Democrats are still in charge of the House, the bill has a real chance to become law, advocates say.
But it will be a tough fight, underscoring just how difficult it will be in the new Congress to reach consensus on the bigger, more complicated issue of reforming an immigration system that both sides say is broken.
Predictions for the 112th Congressional legislative agenda look as grim for immigration as they do for a lot of pressing issues. With Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) the likely Chair of the House Judiciary Committee and Rep. Steve King (R-IA) at the helm of the Subcommittee on Immigration, there’s likely little room for any real movement on immigration save a ‘round-the-clock immigration enforcement parade—that is, unless Speaker-elect John Boehner (R-OH) steps in.
The unfortunate irony is that the DREAM Act has long enjoyed bipartisan support, just not the Congressional courage to get it done. First introduced in 2001 by Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Richard Durbin (D-IL) in the Senate, the DREAM Act addresses the plight of young undocumented immigrants who, brought to the U.S. at a young age, grew up here, wish to go to college and obtain lawful employment. Although the DREAM Act has passed the Senate Judiciary Committee four times—and the Senate in 2006 as part of a larger immigration bill—it has never passed the House. Today, Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) is the lead co-sponsor with Senator Durbin (D-IL).
So what are we really waiting for? Clearly these DREAM Act kids—who, mind you, never had a choice in coming here, have managed to stay out of trouble and continue to excel in school—deserve better. The public thinks so, too. For the politicians constantly looking over their shoulder to see where the voters are, the evidence is pretty clear: this is one area of immigration law that almost everyone supports. And by helping these students, America helps itself, bringing more talent and energy into the legal workforce.
At this point, Democrats have little if anything to lose by bringing the DREAM Act to a vote during lame duck and Republicans, looking ahead to 2012, have plenty to gain.
Photo by Public Citizen.