Who's Still Dreaming the Dream?

December 7, 2010 9:41 AM

This week when Congress is expected to finally vote on the so-called Dream Act, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) will vote to kill it.

And what of his one-time role as a lead sponsor of the original bill many years ago? 

It turns out THAT was just a dream. 

Hatch is one of a handful of legislators now poised to reverse their support and take a dim view of giving more than 800,000 young undocumented people a clear path to legal residency and ultimately citizenship.

How do you go from key supporter to dream-killer within a decade?

Such is the fickleness of the politics of self-interest.

Hatch isn't immune from the Tea Party threat that many old-line conservatives were forced to fend off in the midterm elections. With a 2012 re-election fight brewing, Hatch has learned he can't afford to dream for the undocumented. He's got his own seat to worry about.

So does Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas). When she voted for the Dream Act in 2007, she may have been using it to court the young Latino vote in preparation for her run for governor. Now that she's lost that election, the undocumented have lost her vote.

Along with Hatch and Hutchison are five other Republicans in the Senate, one-time Dream Act backers who, at least on this issue, are currently sitting on that proverbial fence many conservatives want to build on the border. They are Sens. Bob Bennett (Utah), Dick Lugar (Indiana), Sam Brownback (Kansas), Olympia Snowe (Maine), and Susan Collins (Maine).

Will they show a little courage and do the right thing this time?

Unless Obama's made some deal on tax cuts for the dream vote, the Senate is not hopeful.

The Dream Act could do better in a separate vote in the House also this week where Democrats still have a majority.   Already there's a heated debate over some Congressional Budget Office numbers that show one version of the Dream Act could cut the deficit by $1.4 billion over the next decade. But the CBO also said deficits would rise by $5 billion and $20 billion between 2021 and 2061.

There's lots of ammo for both sides.

Either we can't afford to help the young undocumented. Or we can't afford NOT to help educate those so willing to be productive tax-paying Americans.

Still, no matter what happens, at the very least, we'll get an update on which legislators are likely to support a broader push for more meaningful immigration reform.

That may be a small thing, but it's an important step in this seemingly never-ending battle, because frankly, the Dream Act isn't all that dreamy.

My dream would go much farther.

The young undocumented are important, of course. If they graduate from high school (no small feat these days), and complete at least two years of college, they should gain permanent residency and eventual citizenship.

But what of the poor who can't afford college?  Inserting military service as an option is fine. But for those who are unable to serve due to physical or moral reasons, why not include a community service option? 

And what of all those excluded from the dream because of age?  If there are an estimated 12 million undocumented in the workforce, why don't we include an incentive for these working, productive, taxpaying undocumented people to legalize their status as well?

After all is said and done this week, that's still the dream worth dreaming.


Posted by:Emil Guillermo

The views expressed in this blog do not necessarily represent the views or policies of AALDEF.


1. Dream Act passed the House last night, but still faces an uphill climb in Senate where the votes outlined previously will be very important. Timing is everything though, and the tax plan could keep the Senate in deep sleep until next week when a vote could mean the Dream either dies or becomes a reality.
Posted by: Emil Guillermo | Dec 9, 201012:46 PM

Leave a comment

required, but will not be published


Feb. 25: DACA renewal and immigration know your rights clinic at Brooklyn Law School


New AALDEF guidance on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)


Remembering AALDEF board member Vivian Cheng-Khanna,1955-2017


2017 AALDEF exit poll: 2,538 Asian American voters polled in 4 states: VA, NJ, NY, MA


Nov. 15-16: AALDEF calls on Asian Americans to mobilize in DC for a clean DREAM Act


Feb. 15, 2018: AALDEF lunar new year gala honoring Preet Bharara, Linda Greenhouse, and Chan Lee


Oct. 1: DACA renewal clinic at Flushing Library


AALDEF denounces ending of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals; new DACA fact sheet


Federal appeals court upholds ruling in AALDEF case that Texas election law violates Voting Rights Act


AALDEF denounces introduction of RAISE Act to restrict legal imigration


AALDEF exit poll presentations in Miami, Las Vegas, Atlanta & San Diego


AALDEF statement on the president's voter fraud commission


Screening of new PBS film "Chinese Exclusion Act" and Q&A with Ric Burns and Li-shin Yu on May 23


New AALDEF report: The Asian American Vote in 2016


AALDEF joins amicus brief in State of Hawaii's challenge to revised Trump travel ban


AALDEF condemns Trump Administration's revamped anti-immigrant travel ban


AALDEF joins Korematsu Center amicus brief in challenge to Trump travel ban in Brooklyn federal court