Amidst the steady stream of action by DREAM Act supporters over the last few weeks—candlelight vigils, hunger strikes, Hill visits—the White House has also upped its game, turning out its political heavyweights to emphasize the importance of DREAM. This morning, Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Dr. Clifford Stanley joined White House Director of Intergovernmental Affairs, Cecilia Munoz, to discuss how passage of the DREAM Act would benefit military readiness. This marks yet another showing of support by the Obama Administration in recent weeks as Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano have all spoken publically on the benfits of DREAM. Although President Obama has always been a supporter of the bill, this heightened push is only the most recent evidence that immigration remains a priority for the White House—both on its merits and as a potent political symbol in 2012. The Senate is likely to vote on whether to invoke cloture on the DREAM Act tomorrow.
Today, Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Dr. Clifford Stanley spoke to reporters about how the DREAM Act would expand the pool of eligible recruits:
Looking at military readiness, [the DREAM Act] is just common sense. There are 65,000 children out there, brought to the U.S. because parents brought them here. They are talented students and we need talented, smart and high quality recruits … If the DREAM Act passed, we’d expand the pool of eligibility to 50,000 – 65,000 people. This is an opportunity for people who could serve, smart people, and to do it honorably. To ignore the DREAM Act for those who had no choice coming here is to ignore the pool of highly qualified military applicants.
Note that the Department of Defense recommended the passage of the DREAM Act in their FY2010-12 Strategic Plan, calling it a “smart way” to “sustain quality assurance” when recruiting an all volunteer force.
Last month, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan spoke out on the need for the U.S. to invest in education and keep talented students in the U.S.:
We have to educate ourselves to a better economy. All of us should be doing everything we can to increase educational opportunity, not deny it … For our young people, for our country, for our country’s economy, we desperately need to pass the DREAM Act.
Similarly, Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke made the economic case for DREAM:
“The American taxpayer has invested in them, and unless we pass the DREAM Act, we will keep throwing away this hard-earned investment,” Locke told reporters on a conference call.
Department of Homeland Security Secretary, Janet Napolitano, also weighed in on the DREAM Act, remarking that its passage would aid immigration enforcement efforts:
By figuring out a solution for this category of young people, the DREAM Act will enable DHS to prioritize to an even greater extent the enforcement of our nation’s immigration laws, including the laws against, for example, those associated with smuggling drugs and smuggling other human beings.
There is no question that DREAM activists and immigration advocates have gotten the backing and attention of the White House. While some may grumble that this should have been the posture all along, this intensive, full court press strategy has paid off for the White House in the past. Yet even with the weight of the White House and a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) score that has DREAM reducing the deficit by $1.4 billion over ten years, Republican votes may be short. Speaking on the call with Under Secretary Stanely today, White House’s Director of Intergovernmental Affairs Cecilia Munoz noted that seven Republicans have supported DREAM in the past and that the outcome of the Senate’s vote tomorrow will be dependent on the same number of Republicans.
Photo by afagen.