Harry Reid has announced that, in addition to a a DADT repeal vote in the defense authorization bill--the only major legislative vehicle likely to move before October--he will include a DREAM Act amendment. The DREAM Act would provide a path to citizenship for undocumented students who came to the U.S. as children.
It’s been a long time coming for the DREAM Act, which was first proposed in 2001. It went up for a vote once, in 2007, but was eight votes short of overcoming a filibuster. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), one of the original sponsors, introduced the bill in this session in March 2009.
Reid had previously expressed doubt that he could find the votes to pass the act, but at a stakeout today seemed confident it could pass as part of the defense authorization bill.
"When that passes, millions of children will be able to get the education they need to contribute to our economy," he said. "Boys and girls who come here before they turn 16 and have been here for five years — kids who grew up as Americans — should be able get their green card after go to college or serve in the military."
It's not the comprehensive immigration reform, the country really needs, but it is a much needed reform for all those young people living in limbo. Republican Senators, of course, are making threatening noises.
"It’s made it needlessly controversial," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said yesterday. "I can’t tell you right now how easy it will be to go forward with that bill, but it’s certainly created an element of controversy that would not have been otherwise there."
"This is an all-time low for me being in the Senate and that’s saying something," Lindsey Graham told Foreign Policy’s The Cable yesterday. "The one area that has been kept off limits from partisan politics has been the defense of our nation. To say that you’re going to bring up a defense bill and put the Dream Act on it ... to me is very offensive."
So dealing proactively with immigration is offensive to Lindsey Graham, who has a very short memory for all-time Senate lows. This is probably mostly bluster. Senators, Republicans particularly, are generally not inclined to vote against big defense bills. Meanwhile, pressure from activists is ramping up to lobby for the bill, and members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus are meeting with President Obama tomorrow.
Update: If you're wondering what the DREAM Act has to do with Defense Authorization, the Wonk Room has the answer:
In fact, the DREAM Act is included in the Department of Defense’s FY2010-12 Strategic Plan to help the military "shape and maintain a mission-ready All Volunteer Force"....
That’s because a specific provision of the DREAM Act would allow those who meet all eligibility requirements, serve in the U.S. armed forces for at least two years and maintain "good moral character" to obtain regular lawful permanent resident status after six years. Many Military experts have come out in support of the DREAM Act because it would significantly increase the pool of qualified recruits in the Latino population, which comprises the majority of undocumented immigrants and which research indicates are more likely to enlist and serve in the military than any other group.
There you go.