The Stars Have Aligned: The Time Is Now for the DREAM Act

(9AM EST – promoted by Nightprowlkitty)

Originally posted at Citizen Orange.

If you haven’t been on facebook, twitter, or following the news, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) announced yesterday that he would be introducing the DREAM Act as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act.  Univision anchor Jorge Ramos tweeted last week that Reid wanted to move the DREAM Act before November.  Now we know how Reid wants to move it.  The DREAM Act could come up for a vote as early as Tuesday of next week.

For those that don’t know, the Development Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act would give the right to exist to almost a million migrant youth who are American in every sense except for the piece of paper that recognizes them as such.  Specifically, the DREAM Act would give unauthorized migrant youth who were brought to the U.S. before the age of 16 an opportunity to earn legal status, provided they graduate from high school, are of good moral character (no criminal record), and complete either two years in college or two years in the military.  The specifics of the legislation are sound.  I can convince almost anyone to I speak with to support the DREAM Act.  The only real reasons folks have to oppose the DREAM Act, in actuality, are either ignorance and/or hate. 

However, the importance of the DREAM Act goes beyond the specifics of the legislation.  For tens of millions, and a good portion of the 70% of Americans who support the DREAM Act, the legislation represents a renewal of the American promise and a positive way forward in what has been decades of a harmful, divisive and stagnant immigration policy debate.  I see it as a baby step towards alleviating what I believe is one of the most harmful inequalities that exists on the globe today, the inequality between nations.  The DREAM Act will help us move towards a world where people migrate out of want, not out of need.  The DREAM Act will help us move towards a world where the piece of the Earth we were born on is no longer the primary guarantor of our God given rights.  Don’t take my word for it, hear it from the mouths of DREAMers themselves

Again, the DREAM Act is being added as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, which for those that don’t know, is a bill that Congress has to pass every year to fund the U.S. Department of Defense.  There has long been whispers of trying to pass the DREAM Act as an amendment to the Defense Authorization Act.  Frankly, I think it’s our best chance and it makes the most political sense.  It minimizes the chances of hostile amendments to the DREAM Act and it spotlights the military provision of the DREAM Act, which appeals particularly to Senate Republican. 

There’s also a certain poetic justice to the fact that the Defense Authorization Act already includes “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell language.”  I’ve already written about how a disproportionate amount of migrant youth leaders identify as queer.  The LGBT movement is inextricable from the migrant youth movement.  There would be nothing sweeter than huge victories for both LGBT movement and the migrant youth movement at the end of next week.  It would also allow for skittish moderate Senate Republicans and Democrats to swallow what they might perceive to be bitter pills before the elections all at once.

I’m happy to report that the additional political complication of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus holding the DREAM Act hostage to comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) is no longer an issue.  Today, Representatives Nydia Velázquez (D-NY), Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), and Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) all came out in support of moving the DREAM Act on its own now to put us in a stronger position to pass CIR later, as it should be.  I will let Gutierrez tell you what they will be asking of President Obama when they meet with him tomorrow:

We will also ask him to use all his power, to use all of his influence, to use all his might and to use that bully pulpit of the White House … to make sure that the DREAM Act has a successful vote next week

Luis Gutierrez – Roll Call (15 September 2010)

The pro-migrant movement is united as never before and ready to use all it’s pwer to fight for a better tomorrow not only for unauthorized migrant youth, but for all of us.  

The only factor that has yet to be decided is how Senate Republicans react.  Before I continue, let me say this.  People who follow me know that I’m no partisan.  Democrats are in charge of all the levers of the government machine that is tearing apart all our communities with over a thousand deportations a day now.  As unpopular as it makes me sometimes, I stand behind any politician that stands with migrants.  When progressive media assailed John McCain (D-AZ) for being a flip-flopper on the DREAM Act when he was running for President in ’08, I supported him.  Of course, I feel like an idiot now that he has flopped back, but would support of him if he flipped again. 

Republican leadership has already come out strong against the DREAM Act.  Yesterday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) called the the DREAM Act an “extraneous” measure.  Today, McCain called the DREAM Act an “onerous” provision.  The real question is not whether Republican leadership will support this, though, but how moderate Republicans like Scott Brown (R-MA), Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Susan Collins (R-ME), George Lemeiux (R-FL), and Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-TX) respond.  I honestly have no idea how they will react, but I have a feeling that the narratives the media latches onto will play a huge role. 

There are two major media narratives to push back against: one of which is just false, and another of which is only small part of a larger story.  First, the media is going to try and portray the DREAM Act as a “controversial” measure which is nowhere near the truth.  According to a recent poll, the DREAM Act is supported by 70% of the U.S. public.  It has long been one of the most popular immigration measures among Republicans and Democrats like and has always been introduced in a bipartisan fashion in both the House and the Senate.  Carly Fiorina, Republican Senate nominee in California, recently came out in support of the DREAM Act as have other Republicans running to be elected this cycle.  Don’t take my word for it, read Allahpundit at the popular conservative blog (emphasis mine):

Normally I’d call this self-serving nuttiness since it helps Reid but forces vulnerable Dems to choke on another difficult immigration vote, but the DREAM Act is the most politically palatable ground-preparer for amnesty that the left has. It’s specifically geared at kids and education, so indies won’t grumble too much. In fact, at her debate with Boxer a few weeks ago, Carly Fiorina said she supports it. Frankly, this may be a tougher vote for the GOP in trying to get it stripped out or, possibly, having to vote against the appropriations bill in toto [sic] to stop it.

Here’s anti-amnesty Democrat Mickey Kaus making the thumbnail case against the DREAM Act a few years ago. You know what would be great? If the Republicans controlled the Senate so that we didn’t have to face tough votes like this. Oh well.

Allahpundit – (14 September 2010)

Even members of the nativist Center of Immigration Studies have uttered grudging partial support of the DREAM Act because they know it undercuts every bogeyman argument about immigration that they have.  Again, the DREAM Act is not “controversial.”

The second argument the media is going to make is that this is a political move by Harry Reid to shore up the Latino vote in preparation for his extremely competitive election against Republican Sharron Angle.  That’s only part of the story.  Reid would not be moving the DREAM Act on its own if it weren’t for the courageous actions of the folks at  Their sit-in in his office is what turned the tide for the DREAM Act.  Before that he only was only willing to push the DREAM Act as part of CIR. 

Ultimately, this story is bigger than Reid.  I’ll quote Reid on this:

I don’t think we should talk about how beneficial the DREAM Act is for Democrats.  We should talk about how fair it is to people who should be able to go to school if they want to or join the military if they want to. That has nothing to do with Democrats or Republicans.

Harry Reid – Las Vegas Review Journal (14 September 2010)

Look out for those two narratives in the media and push back at them as best as you can through the comments, emailing reports, facebook, twitter, you name it.  The more those narratives take hold the harder it is going to be for moderate Republicans to do the right thing.

More important than all of that, though, move your Senators to vote for the DREAM Act!  Any and all pressure to get the votes we need is appreciated.  Emails, faxes, calls, office visits, actions, you name it.  I’ll write more on that shortly, but in the meantime, I’ll send you to this page that tells you who to call