The DREAM Act, a bill that would allow some undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children to stay in the country legally, will come up for a vote as a standalone bill sometime before the end of the year, according to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. This is the last chance to pass the bill before Republicans take control of the House, but even with Democratic majorities, the bill could fail during the lame-duck session.
The problem: Reid doesn’t have sure support for the DREAM Act from all Democrats. One Democrat, Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Nebr., said this week he plans to vote against the bill if it is brought up this session.
“I’m not going to support any act that I don’t think adds to jobs, or military or to the economy. Consequently, I won’t support any motion to proceed or any kind of cloture on the DREAM Act,” Nelson told Politico. “In addition, I think that has to be part of an overall comprehensive solution to immigration once we have the border secured, not until then.”
Of the eight Democrats who voted against the bill in 2007, when it was last brought for a vote, at least five said in September they were still uncertain. Spokesmen for Sens. Kent Conrad, D-N.D., Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., Mark Pryor, D-Ark., and Mary Landrieu, D-La., did not return calls for comment on the senators’ current positions on the bill.
The bill could still pass if it wins support from Republicans. Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., agreed to co-sponsor the bill, and Sen. Robert Bennett, R-Utah, indicated he is likely to vote for the DREAM Act as a standalone bill.
“I support the DREAM Act as free-standing legislation, but putting it in a bill that has a number of objectionable aspects is not something I support,” he said in a statement. “If Harry Reid brings it to the floor as a stand-alone bill, I will vote for it.”
Other Republicans, though, maybe harder to persuade. Moderate Republicans are caught between lobbying by DREAM activists — mostly undocumented students who have held numerous protests and sit-ins in support of the act — and pushes from Republican leadership to vote against the bill. Although the bill once had strong bipartisan support, previous Republican supporters such as Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, have said they would vote against the bill this year.
Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., the ranking member of the Judiciary Committee, is circulating a memo decrying the DREAM Act as “amnesty” and claim it could double or triple the number of green cards distributed by allowing DREAM Act beneficiaries to petition for legal status for their family members. Other conservatives have criticized the bill for its age limits — which are explained in a blog post here — and claimed it would draw undocumented immigrants to the country.
Democrats hope to win over GOP senators such as Scott Brown, R-Mass., Susan Collins, R-Maine, and George LeMieux, R-Fla. — all of whom indicated some support for the idea of the DREAM Act during a debate over the defense authorization bill, which was filibustered in September. Spokesmen for Brown and Collins did not return calls for comment, but LeMieux seems almost certain to vote against the DREAM Act.
“While I am sympathetic to the students impacted by current law, I cannot support consideration of the DREAM Act until we have taken substantial and effective measures to secure our borders,” LeMieux said.
Elise Foley reports for The American Independent.