The Dead DREAM Act Signals An Era of Immigration Enforcement

Published on December 9th, 2010

By Joe Guzzardi
December 1, 2010

A DREAM Act resolution is not far off. Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced that he’ll force a test vote later this week to measure whether he has enough support.

Whether Reid will go through with his threat is unclear in light of a letter Senate Republicans sent to him Wednesday. In it, they pledge to block all Democratic-backed legislation unrelated to tax cuts and government spending in the current lame duck Congressional session.

From the letter’s text signed by all 42 Republicans: “We write to inform you that we will not agree to invoke cloture on the motion to proceed to any legislative item until the Senate has acted to fund the government and we have prevented the tax increase that is currently awaiting all American taxpayers. With little time left in this Congressional session, legislative scheduling should be focused on these critical priorities.”

Even the DREAM Act’s most ardent Republican supporter Indiana’s Richard Lugar, is a signatory. Adding to the Democrats dilemma is that the party can’t convince colleagues like Senators Ben Nelson (Nebraska) and Byron Dorgan (North Dakota) that the DREAM Act is viable legislation.

The Republican’s letter kills any small chance the DREAM Act may have had in the post-November election environment. Adding it all up, the Democrats will come up with only 55-56 votes, well short of the necessary 60.

In past years, the Democrats might have been able to count on a handful of Republican sympathizers. But what’s remarkable is how dramatically some of the DREAM Act’s early proponents have changed their minds.

For example, Utah’s Orrin Hatch in 2003 and again in 2005, introduced two versions of the DREAM Act. In 2004, Hatch then on the Senate Judiciary Committee also introduced a private bill for an illegal alien student, Heilit Martinez.

Hatch once stated on the Congressional record that not passing the DREAM Act would represent a "tremendous loss" to American society. Hatch even fought to eliminate the legislation’s arbitrary age ceilings.

But earlier this month Hatch revealed his dramatic change of heart when he said about the DREAM Act: “The American people want the government to secure our borders, create jobs and reduce the deficit.”

In fact, Hatch has become Congress’ strongest enforcement advocate. Beginning on November 13 2009, when Homeland Security Janet Napolitano in a speech to the Center for American Progress vigorously defended President Barack Obama’s commitment to amnesty and also argued that more immigration is good for the economy, Hatch took strong exception.

Replied Hatch: “Legalizing those who have no legal right to be in the United States will not be a ‘boon’ to American workers. Rather, it would only exacerbate the unfair competition American workers currently face as they struggle to find jobs.”

Over the following months, Hatch stepped up his criticism. He correctly called Obama’s immigration ploys “cynical games” intended to win 2012 Hispanic votes.

Then, early this summer, in the wake of the federal government’s law suit against Arizona to prevent S.B. 1070 from taking effect, Hatch signed an amendment to stop federal funding of any future legal action.

Finally, after returning from the Labor Day recess where he got an earful from his constituents about lax immigration policies, Hatch introduced his own enforcement bill, S. 3901, the “Strengthening our Commitment to Legal Immigration and America’s Security Act,” that would among other things mandate the use of 287 (g), track welfare dollars spent on illegal immigrants, curb identity theft and end the diversity visa.

With the Republicans controlling the House in the next Congress and the Senate finally showing awareness about the immigration crisis, things are at last trending toward enforcement.

Joe Guzzardi has written editorial columns—mostly about immigration and related social issues – since 1990. He is a senior writing fellow for Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS) and his columns have frequently been syndicated in various U.S. newspapers and websites. He can be reached at [email protected]

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