Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Last Chance to Pass the DREAM Act

So there is good news to report, both from a strategic/tactical perspective and morally.

Among the items that will be discussed in the upcoming lame duck Senate session are the DREAM Act and the overdue repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

I'll defer discussion on the latter, though I certainly have no problem with those who meet the mental and physical qualifications for serving the country doing so, regardless of sexual orientation, because it's the former that's more interesting.

First, even with Rasmussen doing it's customary scale tipping, a clear majority of Americans support the DREAM Act as a means for people who have entered this country illegally to carve out a path to citizenship either by obtaining higher education or serving in the armed forces. (Most polls show support significantly higher than the story to which I have linked you; in some cases as high as 80% for those immigrants who volunteer to serve in the military).

Second, and here's the real interesting part for me; historically the DREAM Act, which also has Department of Defense support, has had wide bi-partisan support. And yet, despite being introduced in various forms and fashions since 2001, it has yet to pass. Why?

Well, let's start with this glance at the increasing trend of Latino voters in states in the American Southwest. It's already turned New Mexico, Nevada and Colorado into swing states (though a large influx of Californians who cashed out before the housing bust and moved to Denver helped) and kept California solidly blue.

But what I find more interesting is the analysis of this poll conducted the last time the DREAM Act was introduced. Though Latino voters, like most voters, still voted their pocketbooks (and shouldn't most of us, really?), the high unfavorables the Republican Party continues to rack up among Latinos (not helped by the 2006 anti-immigration referendums and the rhetoric among Tea Party candidates like Sharon Angle) continue to grow.

And that, rather than any of the other quasi or outright discriminatory rhetoric that the Republican Party continues to throw out about the act by bleating about the travesty of amnesty and how it impacts the availability of financial aid for citizens (non-citizens in this position don't qualify for PELL Grants, so that one really doesn't hold much water) is what's really at stake here.

If you assume that at least some in the Republican Party are able to think strategically, rather than just utilizing the short term tactical thinking in which they specialize, you can assume that allowing a Democratic majority to pass the DREAM Act would be yet another blow to a party that has hemorrhaged votes among a demographic that provided significant support to Bush the Younger. What is at stake is likely a growing generation of younger Latino voters, one that would likely be lost, in large numbers, should this act pass.

So look for Republicans to filibuster the DREAM Act during the upcoming lame duck session of Congress, and for us to repeat the theater of the last two years, where we have to hunt down one or more Republicans with consciouses to overcome said filibuster. Outgoing Utah Senator Bob Bennett would be one Republican who would vote to end the filibuster, he's stated previously that he would vote yes on a standalone bill and is said to have re-asserted this stance recently.

Orrin Hatch had supported it previously, though I'm not holding my breath for him to do so this time, unless he's interested in meeting the same fate as Bennett did in Utah's crazy Republican primary system. Scott Brown is apparently still opposed, as is outgoing Ohio Senator George Voinovich. I'm hard pressed to find vote 60, unless one of the ladies from Maine once again stands up to their party and does the right thing, or a Republican who is simply not worried about a Tea Party primary opponent (likely because they're retiring or running for a different office) takes a stand.

For some fine lunchtime reading on the Act's likely impact, in raw numbers, download this position paper on the issue.