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Joe Guzzardi: Dead DREAM Act Signals Era of Immigration Enforcement

Letter signed by Republicans all but kills any small chance of enacting the legislation

A DREAM Act resolution is not far off. On Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced that he’ll force a test vote later this week to measure whether he has enough support.

Joe Guzzardi
Joe Guzzardi

Whether Reid will go through with his threat is unclear in light of a letter Senate Republicans sent him Wednesday. In it, they pledge to block all Democratic-backed legislation unrelated to tax cuts and government spending in the current lame-duck congressional session.

From the letter’s text signed by all 42 Republicans: “We write to inform you that we will not agree to invoke cloture on the motion to proceed to any legislative item until the Senate has acted to fund the government and we have prevented the tax increase that is currently awaiting all American taxpayers. With little time left in this congressional session, legislative scheduling should be focused on these critical priorities.”

Even the DREAM Act’s most ardent Republican supporter, Indiana’s Richard Lugar, is a signatory. Adding to the Democrats’ dilemma is that the party can’t convince colleagues such as Sens. Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Byron Dorgan of North Dakota that the DREAM Act is viable legislation.

The Republicans’ letter kills any small chance that the DREAM Act may have had in the post-November election environment. Adding it all up, the Democrats will come up with only 55 or 56 votes — well short of the necessary 60.

In past years, Democrats might have been able to count on a handful of Republican sympathizers. But what’s remarkable is how dramatically some of the DREAM Act’s early proponents have changed their minds.

For example, Utah’s Orrin Hatch in 2003 and again in 2005, introduced two versions of the DREAM Act. In 2004, Hatch, then on the Senate Judiciary Committee, also introduced a private bill for an illegal alien student, Heilit Martinez.

Hatch once stated on the congressional record that not passing the DREAM Act would represent a “tremendous loss” to American society. Hatch even fought to eliminate the legislation’s arbitrary age ceilings.

But earlier this month, Hatch revealed his dramatic change of heart when he said about the DREAM Act: “The American people want the government to secure our borders, create jobs and reduce the deficit.”

In fact, Hatch has become Congress’ strongest enforcement advocate. Beginning Nov. 13, 2009, when Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano in a speech to the Center for American Progress vigorously defended President Barack Obama’s commitment to amnesty and also argued that more immigration is good for the economy, Hatch took strong exception.

He replied: “Legalizing those who have no legal right to be in the United States will not be a ‘boon’ to American workers. Rather, it would only exacerbate the unfair competition American workers currently face as they struggle to find jobs.”

Over the following months, Hatch stepped up his criticism. He correctly called President Obama’s immigration ploys “cynical games” intended to win 2012 Hispanic votes.

Then, early this summer, in the wake of the federal government’s law suit against Arizona to prevent Senate Bill 1070 from taking effect, Hatch signed an amendment to stop federal funding of any future legal action.

Finally, after returning from the Labor Day recess, when he got an earful from his constituents about lax immigration policies, Hatch introduced his own enforcement bill, S.3901, the “Strengthening our Commitment to Legal Immigration and America’s Security Act,” that would, among other things, mandate the use of 287(g), track welfare dollars spent on illegal immigrants, curb identity theft and end the diversity visa.

With the Republicans controlling the House in the next Congress and the Senate finally showing awareness about the immigration crisis, things are at last trending toward enforcement.

— 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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