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DREAM Act Less About Politics, More About Basic Fairness to Cross-Section of Political Spectrum

In addition to the demise of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and the broader changes in the defense authorization bill (including increases in military pay, no permanent military bases in Afghanistan, and more), the DREAM Act failed to get a chance to be offered as an amendment to the bill. When Mitch McConnell tried to offer a unanimous consent request to consider the bill, he specifically said that amendments could not feature changes to immigration policy. And Republicans generally called this a ploy by the Majority Leader to help save his re-election by pushing an immigration measure upon which Latino voters would look kindly.

Considering that 26 percent of Nevada’s population is Latino, that’s not a bad bet. But it also happens to be a humane policy. The children and students who get wrapped up in this nightmare of being basically stateless should not be failed by the country they consider home. AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka, who has been a strong advocate of immigration reform, told FDL News a story about someone he met who couldn’t find a job because of a loophole in her naturalization status. “She’s one of five kids, her dad naturalized everyone but her, it was an administrative slip-up. Now she can’t find a job because she’s undocumented? It’s outrageous. There are a lot of kids being wasted in this country,” Trumka said.

Trumka added that, while “you can’t make this economy work unless you fix the immigration problem,” there’s no reason not to make a tangible change for people, one which doesn’t lessen the commitment. Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) was one of the first in the Congressional Hispanic Caucus to support detaching the DREAM Act from the greater immigration reform efforts. “It was the students that forced the issue,” Grijalva told FDL News. He described how there was no sense in writing off a generation of young people in the vain hope of a comprehensive bill down the road, especially when they never had a choice in coming to America and want a chance to contribute positively to society.

You can see the intensity and passion this issue provides with Kendrick Meek’s rally in Florida with supporters of the DREAM Act. He clearly thinks this can be a component of rescuing his flagging campaign. I would argue that, given the attention paid to this issue by students, it’s as much about young voters as it is about Latinos:

Among them: Vanessa Jaramillo, a 20-year-old from Colombia. She told her story during Monday’s rally.

She was brought to the United States as a toddler on a tourist visa with her mother, an attorney who wanted a break from an abusive marriage. But because the situation back home was unstable, they overstayed their visa and never left Miami. Her mother, who also attended the rally, now works as a maid.

“I didn’t know when I was little that it would be a problem that I’d grow up without papers. But it wasn’t my fault,” Jaramillo said. “I feel like every single time that I walk in the door and they tell me, ‘You have a Social Security [card]?’ And I say, ‘no,’ it’s like they’re pushing me back from realizing my dreams.”

It’s unclear whether the Senate will take up the DREAM Act again, despite assurances from Sen. Reid on the floor yesterday that “it’s just a matter of when.” Bob Bennett (R-UT), who’s leaving at the end of the year, said he would support the measure as a standalone bill. Maybe others like co-sponsor Richard Lugar would join him. Sounds like as good a shot as the DISCLOSE Act or anything else.

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David Dayen

David Dayen