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For months, Republican Senators have been lining up excuse after excuse in an effort to obstruct a vote on the DREAM Act. But with the 111th Congress drawing to a close, the moment of truth will soon be here. Senators will have to decide if they stand on the side of talented young leaders and the broader Latino community, or with a small but vocal band of nativists and their darker view of America.
Below are some of the most popular excuses Republican Senators have been citing as reasons to oppose DREAM, along with the actual facts behind them.
THEY SAY: “The DREAM Act can’t pass, and the Democrats are playing politics by bringing it up.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC): “If we bring up the DREAM Act in the lame duck, that’s going nowhere.” [Fox News, 11/28/2010]
REALITY: DREAM did pass the House, on a bipartisan basis, on December 8. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid even took the extraordinary step of altering the Senate floor schedule so that the upper chamber could take up the House bill, shortcutting the path DREAM would need to take to become law. The only thing standing in the way of the DREAM Act becoming law are a few Republican votes. Now, who’s playing politics with young people’s lives?
THEY SAY: “DREAM should not be part of the Defense Authorization bill.”
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ): “The Arizona Republican, who is ranking member of the Armed Services Committee, said Democrats were using the defense measure as a tool to push liberal agenda items in the runup to the midterm elections. ‘So I intend to block it, unless they agree to remove these onerous provisions,’ he said. McCain blasted Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) for attaching both the DREAM Act and a proposal to end the use of secret holds in the Senate to the measure. McCain also criticized Democrats for using the defense bill to try to repeal the military’s ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy.’” [Roll Call, 9/15/10]
REALITY: Defense Secretary Robert Gates, and other military leaders and veterans, support the DREAM Act. In fact, the Defense Department’s Office of the Undersecretary for Personnel and Readiness listed the DREAM Act as one way to expand its pool of high-quality recruits. Even so, in the lame duck session of Congress, Senate Democrats opted to bring the DREAM Act up on its own to alleviate these “concerns” from Republican senators.
THEY SAY: “DREAM should only be taken up after tax cuts and the government funding measures are addressed.”
All Republican senators signed a letter to Majority Leader Harry Reid that said: “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.” [Senate GOP Letter to Majority Leader Reid, 11/29/2010]
REALITY: Once again, responding to Republican senators’ “concerns,” Senate Democrats dramatically altered the Senate floor schedule so that these measures could be taken up first.
THEY SAY: “We have to secure the border first.”
Sen. George LeMieux (R-FL): “I am very sympathetic to the young people who entered our country illegally by no fault of their own, but I will not support consideration of the DREAM Act without addressing border security. I recently visited the US-Mexico border in Arizona and witnessed the progress toward securing the border. Fully funding and replicating our security successes across the border would allow us to address the DREAM act. However, we are still far from achieving a level of border security that is acceptable to me or to the American people.” [Sen. LeMieux. Press Release, 12/9/10]
REALITY: Congress addresses border security and enforcement on an ongoing basis. In fact, the budget for immigration enforcement agencies has more than doubled over the past eight years, from $7.5 billion in FY 2002 to $17.2 billion in FY 2010. This year, Congress even approved an additional $600 million “emergency” border measure.
The “border first” argument is a red herring. Republicans will continue move the goal posts on what it means to “secure the border” because they don’t want to address the elephant in the room: the millions of undocumented immigrants in our country today.
THEY SAY: “The DREAM Act requirements are too broad.”
Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison: “‘I will not support the Dream Act legislation brought before the Senate because it expands the scope of the bill beyond the intended individuals who were brought here as children and grew up and were educated in the United States.” [Dallas Morning News, 12/9/10]
REALITY: DREAM was always a limited program that only helped people who came to the U.S. before they were old enough to make that decision. But Senate and House Democrats made significant changes that narrowed the legislation in an attempt to court Republican votes.
THEY SAY: “The DREAM Act would bust the budget.”
Sen. David Vitter: “It is imperative that Members of Congress and the American people know the estimated cost of the DREAM Act before a single vote is cast on this legislation.” [Letter to CBO Director Elmendorf, 12/2/2010]
REALITY: The Congressional Budget Office says DREAM would cut the deficit by $2.2 billion over the next ten years.
THEY SAY: “The DREAM Act should only pass as part of comprehensive immigration reform.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC): “If the DREAM Act is not considered part of comprehensive immigration reform, it will be a huge mistake.” [Sen. Graham, Floor Statement, 9/20/10]
REALITY: Senator Graham bears significant responsibility for the failure to advance comprehensive immigration reform in the 111th Congress. After appearing to be working on a comprehensive bill with Sen. Schumer for over a year, the only product he released was an op-ed in the Washington Post. When Senate Democrats made one last effort to get Republicans to the negotiating table on comprehensive reform, Graham and his colleagues dismissed it as partisan politics.
So, the GOP blocks action on comprehensive immigration reform for most of the 111th Congress, then uses the lack of action on comprehensive reform as a reason to oppose the DREAM Act. Remarkable.
THEY SAY: “DREAM should wait until next year.”
Sen. Bob Bennett (R-UT): “[W]e want to do it early next year. It’s my hope — I don’t expect it — but it’s my hope that we can do it this year. If not, it’s my hope a little bit stronger that it can be taken care of next year.” [The Hill, 12/10/10]
REALITY: Reps. Lamar Smith (R-TX) and Steve King (R-IA) will be in charge of immigration policy in the House next year. During this year’s debate on the DREAM Act, Rep. King linked DREAM Act-eligible youth with coyotes, drug smugglers and murderers, and Rep. Smith called the bill “amnesty.” Given that, it’s inconceivable that Reps. Smith and King will advance anything close to the DREAM Act next year, making this year the best shot to pass this important bill.