Seeing immigration reform as the perfect 11th hour wedge issue against Republicans, and to hopefully solidify a foundation with their Hispanic base in 2012, Sen. Harry Reid has finally set some time after Thanksgiving to bring the DREAM Act to a vote in the waning hours of the 111th Congress.
Unlike in September, when Reid tried to slip the provision into a defense appropriations bill that failed, one of the most honorable aspects about the DREAM Act this time around is that it will be stripped raw, standing alone without any other legislative gimmicks attached to it.
From an accountability standpoint, this will give members of congress a chance to declare their up or down stance on the issue of immigration reform. How members vote on this bill will in all likelihood determine the loyalty of support from some of their minority constituents. In addition, how politicians from both houses of congress vote in the end will also determine their future standing with those constituents who draw a harder line toward immigration policy, such as an Arizona-like law.
Yes, the stand alone bill pins politicians into a corner, as it very much should.
Reid's home state newspaper, The Las Vegas Sun, notes that the bill has some hurdles to clear in the Senate as it might face a 60 vote fillbuster-proof barrier. To the neglect of bloggers on the left like the Daily Kos who like to say that it is Republicans who hate Hispanics, facts are a hard thing to swallow. The Sun notes the following in this week's article covering the DREAM Act in a lame duck congress:
"Immigration doesn't split neatly along party lines. While Democrats are more supportive than Republicans are of changes to the laws that favor immigrant inclusion, as opposed to just exclusionary enforcement, they aren't of one mind about it. Many sitting Democrats voted against immigration reform the last time it came up for a true referendum in 2007."
Obviously, hate is not a central part of the issue.
For all that can be said on immigration reform at this point, the lame duck vote coming next week certainly doesn't exclude Republicans from coming up with a solution of their own (especially now that they have the ball in their court by retaking the House). An argument by two Republican officials says that the immigration reform debate belonged to the Republicans in the first place and that the 112th session of congress provides them with an opportunity to take it back by providing some real solutions to the current problem. Championed by Republicans like Ronald Reagan in 1986 and by the GOP in 1996, the immigration reform effort was also pushed by President Bush in 2006. As a matter of fact, if President Bush were president today, he would say that there would be no need for the strict Arizona law if his plan were in place. While Democrats have led the way only recently on immigration, it has been Republicans who have really taken leadership.
If Republicans were to come up with a plan today, as the authors of the Journal article state, then it would need to be one that needs to take into account a post 9/11 world of emphasizing security, background checks for visa insurance, border security, and apprehending dangerous criminals. There can also be reforms in incentivizing highly skilled foreigners who study at the nation's universities to stay and bring their innovation to the struggling U.S. economy.
If Republicans play their cards right and take advantage of their House majority to build a strong Hispanic coalition, Democrats could be seeing red come November 2012.