We know that the Republicans whose patron saint believed in a shining city where the “doors were open to anyone with the will and heart to get here,” have utterly abandoned that principle in fear of tea party rage. But recent legislative moves by the Democrats make it appear they have no intention of passing immigration reform, even as they seek to use it as a campaign issue.
Round One, The DREAM Act
Last week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) attached the DREAM Act to the Defense Authorization bill. At the same time, Democrat leadership attached a provision repealing the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy and another allowing for abortions at military medical centers.
The American people, including Republicans, overwhelmingly support the actual provisions of the DREAM Act. A poll conducted this June found 70 percent of those polled, including 60 percent of Republicans, supported the provisions of the DREAM Act. I think it is useful to see the actual question they were asked:
Currently, illegal immigrant children who were brought to the U.S. at a young age and have grown up here have no way to become legal citizens and fully contribute to society.
Congress is considering a proposal known as the DREAM Act which would address this problem. This bill provides illegal immigrant students who were brought here as young children with the opportunity to work legally without fear of deportation and ultimately earn permanent legal resident status if they meet certain requirements. To earn legal status, students must have come to the U.S. when they were very young, lived here for at least five years, stayed out of trouble, earned a high school diploma or GED, and completed at least two years of college or military service.
If passed, the bill has the potential to provide children and young people who meet these requirements with improved access to a higher education and a legal means by which to contribute to society.
Would you favor or oppose the DREAM Act?
Admittedly, this question is an argument for the DREAM Act. But it is a fair argument which accurately describes the Act. It is an argument that could and should have been made. If the DREAM Act were introduced as a stand alone bill, with bi-partisan support, public hearings and a well-thought publicity campaign, it is an argument that could have won the day.
Instead, the Dream Act was attached at the last minute to a defense bill with other controversial attachments only days before the Senate adjourns for the general election. Anti-immigrant activists quickly called the DREAM Act “backdoor amnesty” and there was no fair opportunity to give the Act the consideration it deserved. All any Senator wary of supporting the Act in this electoral season had to do was to say he opposed the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and vote the whole defense bill, along with the Dream Act, down. And that’s what they did.
Seven Republican Senators who are still in office indicated support for the DREAM Act the last time it was brought for a cloture vote in 2007. At least one Democrat, Claire McCaskill (D-MO), who opposed the bill in 2007 has indicated she may change her vote if it comes up again and was open to debate and amendment. There are a whole slew of senators who were not in office in 2007 who have not had the opportunity to debate or indicate opposition or support for the Act.
Senator Reid’s actions in shepherding this bill are not the actions of a Senator who actually wants to get something passed. The fact that he made an impassioned plea for the Act on its merits after the predictable failure of cloture on the defense bill was shameless.
Senator Durbin (D-IL) has re-introduced the Act as a stand-alone bill, but Reid’s shenanigans have already sullied the name of the bill. Durbin said he will do “everything in my power” to get the DREAM Act passed this time. Advice – Get a new Majority Leader.
Killing Immigration Reform, Round Two
Yesterday, Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT) introduced the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2010 (S. 3932). It is a bill that, with some work, should be satisfying to a broad constituency. It includes strong border strengthening and enforcement provisions; flexible visa reform based on market needs and a path to permanent legal status for those already here illegally who pay a fine and go through a multi-year process with no recourse to means-tested benefits. In addition, none of the other provisions of the bill go into effect until the border strengthening and enforcement provisions are achieved.
It is a bill that would have the strong support of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. But it does not.
Utterly superfluous to immigration reform, Senator Menendez has attached the “Unite American Families Act” to his Immigration Reform Act. The UAFA would treat the “partners” of bi-national couples as married persons.
So today, Menedez got a very nice letter from Salt Lake Bishop John Wester in his capacity as US Bishops’ Migration Chair commending Menedez for his “ongoing leadership on achieving immigration reform,” but
lamenting “that a controversial provision, which would confer marriage-like immigration benefits to same-sex couples, will preclude the U.S. bishops from supporting S. 3932 as introduced.”
Bishop Wester also quite reasonably observed that including UAFA “in a comprehensive immigration reform bill will make it far more difficult to achieve the compromise that will be needed in order to enact a fair and balanced comprehensive immigration reform bill.”
So we now have two attempts at immigration reform proposals diverted by attaching planks from a secondary agenda. Whatever one thinks of that secondary agenda, attaching it to already controversial immigration reform proposals is a sure way to sink desperately needed reform.