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In the 2007 Senate immigration legislative debate, only 34 of 48 Democratic Senators voted to support immigration reform. In 2010, 5 Democratic Senators voted against the DREAM Act. By contrast, today’s 67-31 cloture vote indicates that when this week’s vote takes place on the Senate immigration bill – a bill that includes a path to citizenship for most of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in America – an unprecedented show of Democratic unity will be on display. All 54 Senate Democrats – the entirety of the Senate Democratic caucus – voted for cloture and are poised to vote for final passage. Among these Senators are a number of red and purple state Democrats who are up for re-election in 2014, such as Senators Mark Begich (D-AK), Kay Hagan (D-NC), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Mark Pryor (D-AR), and Mark Warner (D-VA).
What a difference a few years make. In 2007, Rahm Emanuel infamously said that immigration was the third rail of American politics and he counseled Democrats to avoid leaning into immigration reform. Yet the past three election cycles and, especially, the political benefits of the President’s DREAMer deferred action program have given way to a new politics of immigration.
According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice:
A few years ago, immigration was viewed as a wedge issue that Republicans could use to rally their base, peel off swing voters and divide Democrats. Today, immigration is a wedge issue that Democrats can use to rally their base, peel off swing voters and divide Republicans. What this means is that Democrats hold the better cards as the reform debate moves forward. They either win a huge policy victory or they win a huge political victory. Republicans have to decide whether to sue for peace or threaten their viability as a national party. Let’s hope Republicans in Congress decide, for the good of the country and the good of their party, to do the right thing and the smart thing.