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Why Would Republican Senators Oppose the Bi-Partisan DREAM Act?

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 As President Obama and the CHC Unite Behind DREAM, Some Republicans Choose Partisan Politics over National Interest

Washington, DC – Last evening, President Obama capped a momentous day for immigration reform by pledging to fight for the DREAM Act and reiterating his commitment to pursue comprehensive immigration reform.  At the same time, rather than rally around what has been a bi-partisan bill, the DREAM Act, many Republicans were circling their partisan wagons and pledging to oppose its inclusion in the Department of Defense Authorization bill.   

According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice, “The fight to fix our broken immigration system shouldn’t be a partisan battle, but clearly Republicans in the Senate don’t agree.  The idea that an amendment that would allow more talented young people to serve in our nation’s armed forces is somehow ‘extraneous’ to the Department of Defense Authorization bill is ludicrous.  Republicans blocked action on comprehensive immigration reform earlier this year, and now they are balking at DREAM.  When will they realize that their job is to solve problems, not preserve the broken status quo?”

Already, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senators David Vitter, Orrin Hatch, Lindsey Graham and John McCain are lashing out at the prospect of a DREAM Act amendment to the Defense bill.  Sharry said: “Hypocrisy is thick in the air.  Senator Vitter’s attitude is not surprising, but the rest should know better.  When it comes to improving our economic prospects, bolstering our military, and living up to core American values of opportunity and advancement, the DREAM Act is a no-brainer.  It makes little to no sense for Republicans to oppose these bright, talented young people.  The DREAM Act would be a significant step forward toward fixing the broken immigration system, something lawmakers in both parties should embrace.”

At a gala for the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, President Obama stated, “I will do whatever it takes to support the Congressional Hispanic Caucus’ efforts to pass [the DREAM Act] so that I can sign it into law on behalf of students seeking a college education and those who wish to serve in our country’s uniform.  It’s the right thing to do.  We should get it done.”  The President also highlighted Republican obstructionism to efforts to fix the broken immigration system, saying “Today, the folks who yell the loudest about the federal government’s long failure to fix this problem are some of the same folks standing in the way of good faith efforts to fix it.” 

Indeed, despite DREAM’s bipartisan pedigree and clear benefits to military recruitment and economic competitiveness, numerous Republicans are voicing their objections to the legislation – including many who were previous champions and supporters.  In the 108th Congress, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted 16-3 in favor of the DREAM Act with support from current Republican Senators Orrin Hatch (R-UT) (who helped draft the legislation), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Jon Kyl (R-AZ), and John Cornyn (R-TX).  The DREAM Act was also included in comprehensive immigration reform legislation in 2006, as an amendment from Senator Graham in the Judiciary Committee.  Twenty-three Republican Senators voted for the comprehensive bill that year, but many of them and their Senate colleagues are now succumbing to group think, uniting as a party to oppose DREAM despite the compelling reasons it should become law. 

For example, Senator David Vitter (R-LA), made the misplaced assertion that the bill will only “exacerbate the problem of illegal immigration”; Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) referred to the bill as “extraneous”; and Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) attacked Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) for bringing DREAM forward, saying, “Obviously it’s about politics”—an interesting charge given McCain’s evolution on the issue during recent election battles.      

On the other side of the aisle, Democrats seem to be uniting on behalf of DREAM.  President Obama spoke up forcefully and clearly on behalf of DREAM last night.  This afternoon, Obama will meet with Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Representative Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), and Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC) Chairwoman Nydia Velazquez (D-NY) to discuss immigration reform.  The three congressional leaders yesterday announced a strategy on behalf of immigration reform over the coming months, focused on passing DREAM, introducing a broader legislative package of immigration reforms to fix the entirety of the system, and reforming enforcement policies that have had dangerous consequences for community policing and public safety.

According to Sharry, “We applaud the leadership demonstrated by President Obama and congressional leaders on DREAM’s behalf, and hope that Republicans will do the right thing so that the DREAM Act can become a rare example of smart policy triumphing over election year politics.”

America’s Voice — Harnessing the power of American voices and American values to win common sense immigration reform