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Joe Guzzardi: DREAM Act in the Lame-Duck Is a Dead Duck

There are more important issues facing Congress, and the votes to push it through simply aren't there

On Monday, the congressional lame-duck session begins. With it comes a possible vote on the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, the bad penny that keeps coming back despite 10 years of failure.

Joe Guzzardi
Joe Guzzardi

During his re-election campaign, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., promised a DREAM Act vote. Earlier this week, deposed House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., also urged action.

Pro-immigration activists are, as usual, hard at work. Reform Immigration For America, a coalition of more than 800 open-borders organizations, have joined forces to muscle the DREAM Act through. To make their case, Hispanic leaders predictably claim that the few Democrats who survived Election Day’s congressional purge owe Latino voters a debt of gratitude. Ana Navarro, a Republican political strategist who lobbies for Hispanic causes said: “Harry Reid owes his political life to the Latinos in Nevada, and in my view, he has a debt to that community.”

While it’s true that Reid committed to the DREAM Act, Navarro misrepresented several key facts. Reid’s pledge was a campaign promise, delivered to Univision’s Jorge Ramos and intended only to get votes. Unlike promises made between friends and family that are usually fulfilled, only the uninitiated take campaign promises seriously.

Navarro is wrong on another count, too. Reid’s debt of gratitude belongs not to Latinos, who voted as they always do for the Democratic candidate, but to Nevada casino executives who coordinated a suspicious and possibly illegal “get out the vote” effort that included having hundreds of union members driven to the polling booths.

I’ll offer several reasons why the DREAM Act will die in lame-duck.

First, the DREAM Act is the least important issue facing legislators. Among the more urgent topics include debating the defense bill with its “don’t ask, don’t tell” controversy, reauthorizing unemployment benefits beyond Dec. 2 for 2 million unemployed Americans receiving them, extending former President George W. Bush’s tax cuts and, finally, funding the federal government for the next fiscal year.

Without stopgap funding, the government could shut down at the beginning of the next fiscal year. According to Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Ala., the top Republican member of the House Financial Services Committee, that’s fine with them.

Second, the Election Day results sent a strong message that Americans are fed up with illegal immigrant entitlements. More than 60 Democratic House members and four Democratic senators, most pro-amnesty, were defeated. Those who kept their seats should be nervous about bucking the national trend toward enforcement. While Reid and Pelosi survived, some who are going home may decide to run another day, namely in 2012. The last thing they want to do is have a blemish on their voting record that they helped push through a last-minute unpopular immigration bill.

Third, Reid doesn’t have the votes to ram the DREAM Act through. Once, Reid could count on several Republicans such as Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, to vote “yea.” But those days are over. Senators who were not on the 2010 ballot are now in risk adverse 2012 campaign mode.

Furthermore, several Democrats such as North Dakota’s retiring Sen. Byron Dorgan have consistently opposed the DREAM Act. In his Univision interview, Reid told Ramos that he could deliver the DREAM Act with “the help of a handful of Republicans.”

I doubt the DREAM Act will get to the floor. If it does, Reid has neither the Republican “handful” he needs nor enough Democratic allies to win. Lame-duck 2010 could kill the DREAM Act for a long time to come.

— 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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