Thursday, November 15 , 2018, 1:20 am | Fair 45º


Joe Guzzardi: Harry Reid’s DREAM Act Gamble

Attaching immigration expansion to defense bill is latest sign of congressional leadership's increasing desperation

In a surprising act of political bravado, Senate Majority Leader Reid, D-Nev., announced that he would attach controversial DREAM Act legislation to the 2011 defense authorization bill scheduled for a vote next week. On Friday, Reid filed cloture.

Joe Guzzardi
Joe Guzzardi

The DREAM Act would allow illegal alien students who have lived in the United States for at least five years and have graduated from high school or earned a graduate equivalency diploma, or GED, to legalize their immigration status by pursuing a college education or serving in the U.S. military.

Many Americans consider the DREAM Act an amnesty that would allow so-called students up to age 35 to apply and provide legalization to millions of nonstudents through chain migration.

Reid’s ploy comes at a time when he is locked in a tight race against his Republican challenger, Sharron Angle, and when Democrats in general face dim November re-election prospects.

Even Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a longtime supporter of the DREAM Act and liberalized immigration laws, is critical and vowed not to vote for it. McCain challenged Reid on the feasibility of having immigration legislation attached to national defense.

McCain and his Republican colleague, Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, call Reid’s maneuver “a transparent attempt to win an election,” meaning that the Democrats hope their last-ditch effort for the DREAM Act will motivate Hispanic voters to turn out in large numbers.

Other Republicans are even more condemning and call Reid’s effort “despicable,” “offensive” and “cynical.”

Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Ga.: “It’s despicable, quite honestly. Sen. Reid — who we all know is in a very tough re-election battle — that he would use this and use the men and women in the military, who are at the tip of the spear, who have given their lives in the defense of our country, to really use them to try to force this passage of the DREAM Act so he can pander to a large Hispanic voting bloc in his state of Nevada is just deplorable, quite honestly.”

Said Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah: “There’s an emotional debate regarding immigration and we ought to have that discussion in Congress. But in this late hour, just before an election, to try to piggyback it to the defense bill is just offensive to a lot of people.”

Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee, summed up Reid’s action as a “cynical pre-election ploy.”

The Republican objections are important because Reid will need some GOP support for the measure to avoid a filibuster.

Reid has at least one staunch ally: President Barack Obama. At the recent Congressional Hispanic Caucus gala dinner, Obama vowed to support of the DREAM Act and accused its opponents of stoking fear.

The stakes for the Democrats, and specifically Reid, are high. A survey commissioned by the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Nevada’s leading daily newspaper, found that residents are largely opposed to illegal immigration and believe that the state’s economy would be better without illegal workers. By promoting the DREAM Act, Reid is defying his constituents.

Given the DREAM Act’s long and unsuccessful history, the odds against the legislation passing are long.

The DREAM Act first appeared in 2001 and has been reintroduced multiple times in Congresses 107 through 111. In 2007, Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., tried Reid’s trick. Durbin spearheaded a failed effort to bury the DREAM Act in S. 2919, also a defense authorization bill. Congressional critics perceived it then as they do now as nongermane to defense issues and it died quickly.

Reid has put not only himself but other congressional Democrats at risk. Looking ahead to 2012, Obama may be imperiled also if the DREAM Act fails again.

Voters are angry, a phenomenon that apparently escapes the current Congress.

— Joe Guzzardi has written editorial columns — mostly about immigration and related social issues — since 1990 and is a senior writing fellow for Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS). After 25 years as an English as a Second Language teacher in the Lodi Unified School District, Guzzardi has retired to Pittsburgh. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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