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The Real Politics of DREAM and the GOP

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What’s at Stake if Republican Senators Oppose Legislation

The December 2010 DREAM Act debate in the House got really ugly really quick, with Reps. Steve King (R-IA), Lamar Smith (R-TX), and others associating DREAM students with coyotes, drug smugglers, and murderers, and labeling the bill an “affirmative action amnesty.”  Their lies about the DREAM Act will have a real political cost for the GOP, if Senate Republicans allow them to define the Party on this issue.  Read on for more on the role of the political consequences for the GOP if Republican senators oppose the DREAM Act. 

Columnist Edward Schumacher-Matos writes a blistering piece about Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison’s curious opposition to DREAM – and her past support of the legislation.  Writes Schumacher-Matos, “Speaking on the Senate floor in 2007 about a virtually identical bill, she said…’I believe we should deal with this issue. We should do it in a way that helps assimilate these young people with a college education into our country. They have lived here most of their lives. If we sent them home, they wouldn’t know what home is. There is a compassionate reason for us to try to work this out.’” Schumacher-Matos then highlights Sen. Hutchison’s current opposition, as well as the short-sighted politics of opposing DREAM: “Hutchison refuses to show her cards.  Perhaps it is because she was burned by the right-wing Republican base in the gubernatorial contest.  But she also declines to say outright that she opposes the act’s core. Latinos make up nearly a quarter of the Texas electorate and are approaching 40 percent of the state’s population.  According to a November Latino Decisions poll, 86 percent of Latino voters in Texas favor the Dream Act. So Hutchison dances.”

New York Daily News columnist Albor Ruiz
writes of the political doom facing the GOP among Latino voters if they strike down DREAM, noting, “A vote against the DREAM Act would be a terrible injustice against thousands of bright, deserving, young people. But it would also be the Republican Party’s swan song with Latino voters, who would never support a GOP brimming with hostility toward them and their children.”

Conservative columnist and former Reagan Administration official Linda Chavez wrote, “Do Republicans really want to tell young people who’ve lived here most of their lives, who may speak no other language but English and who are even willing to sacrifice themselves on the battlefield: “We don’t want you”?…A number of Republicans who previously supported the legislation – including one of its chief authors, Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah – have decided it is too risky to vote for it now. But the real risk is to the future of the Republican Party.” 

According to Michael Gerson, former Bush Administration speechwriter and Washington Post columnist: “During the current lame-duck session of Congress, Republicans have been correct to emphasize economic concerns, which the public prioritized in the recent election. But supporting the Dream Act would send a useful message – that some Republicans in victory are capable of governing for the sake of everyone.”  

In a column published on The Americano website, a Newt Gingrich-backed source of conservative Latino commentary, Professor Stephen Nuño wrote: “Removed from the peccadilloes of cultural purity which consumes the fear-driven arguments against the Dream Act, Latino Republicans see the economic benefits as well as the moral weight of the issue that are resoundingly in favor of passage…There is nothing about protecting our borders that requires us to be bigoted or insensitive to the impact our policies have on Latino families.  Republicans with legitimate national aspirations are getting a clue.  They look at the electoral landscape and see a Latino demographic that will have an important impact on the future of electoral politics.”

“The longer the Republican Party appears to be the party that is adamantly against the most important issues to the Latino community, the more they threaten any long-term attempts to create a political party that includes Latinos,” said Jaime Regalado, executive director of the Edmund G. “Pat” Brown Institute of Public Affairs at Cal State Los Angeles.”

In an article titled, “Dream Act May Come Back to Haunt the GOP,” the Los Angeles Times reported: “After years of courting Latino voters with a softer tone on immigration, Republican leaders in Congress have all but abandoned that posture, risking what remains of GOP support among the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. population…The party’s once solicitous outreach to Latino voters has been all but drowned out by a powerful grass-roots movement incensed over illegal immigration…But the GOP approach to immigration may come back to haunt the party.”