With a DREAM Act vote expected at the end of the week in the Senate, negotiations continue to rage with hope that after some procedural maneuvering there could be a vote this Friday on final passage.
In the mean time John Creighton of the Washington Times has written an article on the DREAM Act for his column "Dispatches From The Homeland", this article is worth reading because it highlights who is eligible for the DREAM Act and what the process is for recieving benefits from this legislation. The article also clears up a large misconception about the DREAM Act: the actual level of eligibility for social services for current undocumented immigrants, and those who actually become legal permanent residents:
“We can’t get Medicaid,” asserted a young man. “That’s impossible without a Social Security number. We pay taxes but we’re not eligible for benefits.” Even if the DREAM Act passes, these students would not be eligible for many, perhaps most, government services. “We’ve contributed all our lives,” added another student. “We volunteer. We collect food for the food drive and clothes for the clothes drive [at school]. We always try to help.
This is an important distinction as much of the current complaints from conservatives as to why they cannot support the DREAM Act is because it gives undocumented immigrants access to too many social services. This is flat out not true. The Senate Leadership released a list of changes made to House Legislation which actually makes it much harder for recipients of the DREAM Act to receive any social services.
House Addition: Does not grant lawful permanent resident (LPR) status to anyone for at least 10 years; instead, an individual who meets the bill’s requirements becomes a “conditional nonimmigrant.”
What This Means: First things, this portion of the bill requires TEN Years of background checks and good behavior as a conditional non-immigrant, before the status of LPR is applied. Only after 10 years as a conditional nonimmigrant may a DREAM Act beneficiary apply for LPR status. Earlier versions of the DREAM Act provided “conditional permanent resident status” for 6 years, at which time those eligible could apply for LPR status.
Conditional non-immigrant status provides a Social Security number, however as beneficiaries of the DREAM Act, they are required to pay taxes but receive no other federal benefits except the ability to get students loans and work study.
Getting back to the conservative argument that DREAM allows immigrants to receive social services, this is tangentially true, only it is after 10 years of good service and after paying into the system. Not a sinister grafting of the system as many conservative pundits have tried to characterize the DREAM Act.
Lets also be clear here, under the current legislation before the Senate, people can apply and be rejected. This is not an easy process, especially since if someone applies for the DREAM Act and is rejected their undocumentted status is now public knowledge and they can deported.
Anyone who is willing to take that chance, and pay into the system for essentially 10 years, without receiving any benefits, should after meeting all of the background checks and requirements be allowed to fully recieve benifits.
Perhaps an even more nuanced view of what is happening on the border is that violence is down on the American side while also being up on the Mexican side, but that violence committed on the Mexican side has been done with American guns.
No other state has produced more guns seized by police in the brutal Mexican drug wars than Texas. In the Lone Star State, no other city has more guns linked to Mexican crime scenes than Houston. And in the Texas oil town, no single independent dealer stands out more for selling guns traced from south of the border than Bill Carter.
The report goes even further by compiling the 12 largest retailers of weapons to Mexico, not surprisingly all of them are from border states, additionally 8 of these 12 come from Texas:
A year-long investigation by The Washington Post has cracked that secrecy and uncovered the names of the top 12 U.S. dealers of guns traced to Mexico in the past two years. Eight of the top 12 dealers are in Texas, three are in Arizona, and one is in California. In Texas, two of the four Houston area Carter's Country stores are on the list, along with four gun retailers in the Rio Grande Valley at the southern tip of the state. There are 3,800 gun retailers in Texas, 300 in Houston alone.
Perry said drug-related crime and violence all along that country-sized border have "gotten considerably worse, despite all of our efforts." The governor told the Tribune-Review that he is concerned not only by the increasing violence and its spiraling brutality, but by the growing sophistication of the drug cartels' operations and the willingness of gang members to confront U.S. law enforcement officers.
If Governor Perry was serious about doing something about violence on the southern part of the border, given the evidence presented in the Washington Post report, perhaps he should make it harder to buy weapons in his state. The report notes that what makes Texas so popular is not only the sheer numbers of gun shops but also the types of guns you can buy with relative ease in Texas:
Drug cartels have aggressively turned to the United States because Mexico severely restricts gun ownership. Following gunrunning paths that have been in place for 50 years, firearms cross the border and end up in the hands of criminals as well as ordinary citizens seeking protection. "This is not a new phenomenon," Webb said. What is different now, authorities say, is the number of high-powered rifles heading south - AR-15s, AK-47s, armor-piercing .50-caliber weapons - and the savagery of the violence.
This has led to a huge number of guns moving from the United States to Mexico:
Federal authorities say more than 60,000 U.S. guns of all types have been recovered in Mexico in the past four years, helping fuel the violence that has contributed to 30,000 deaths. Mexican President Felipe Calderon came to Washington in May and urged Congress and President Obama to stop the flow of guns south.
The Washington Post article is comprehensive, it is well worth wading into as it gives an excellent snapshot of exactly what is occurring on the southern border.
With the Senate set to vote on The DREAM Act next week, those on the fence just got a nice bit of polling data to help push them over the top. According to a Gallup Poll released today, a slim majority of American's at 54% of the electorate support moving forward with legislation like the DREAM Act. The full poll can be seen here.
The interesting thing about this particular piece of polling data, is that the description of the DREAM act above is actually much laxer then what the Senate will be voting on next week. The description above does not mention any of the various background checks, or time necessary to be eligible for the DREAM Act. While this is positive, it would be interesting to see if these numbers would go up if they polled what was actually going to be voted on.
When they broke the numbers out by party, the majorities actually went up for Democrats, and dropped for republicans but what is most interesting is that independents also overwhelmingly support the DREAM Act.
Support among independents is important as this voting block will be crucial for both Democrats and Republicans running in 2012. Hopefully those still on the fence take the time to look at all of the polling data here as overall it shows broad national support for the DREAM Act.
As noted earlier, the House has passed a substantially different version of the DREAM Act then the Senate version that was unveiled last week.
This has created some procedural hiccups, but by tabling the vote to wait for the House version, Democrats in the Senate have bought time to work on breaking the proposed Republican filibuster on DREAM.
The Senate Majority Leader and The Assistant Majority Leader just released a statement confirming that they intend to hold a vote on the House passed version of DREAM. That release can be seen HERE.
In that release, they also outlined key differences between the House and Senate versions of the legislation, below is a synopsis:
Does not grant lawful permanent resident (LPR) status to anyone for at least 10 years; instead, an individual who meets the bill’s requirements becomes a “conditional nonimmigrant.”
Under the new House bill, conditional non immigrants must meet the bill’s college or military service requirement after 5 years, at which point they must file a new application to extend their status for 5 additional years.
Only after 10 years as a conditional nonimmigrant may a DREAM Act beneficiary apply for LPR status. Earlier versions of the DREAM Act provided “conditional permanent resident status” for 6 years, at which time those eligible could apply for LPR status.
Below is a PDF outlining all eleven key differences:
A cloture vote on the motion to proceed to a stand alone vote on the DREAM Act has been tabled in the Senate with a vote of 59-40.
This was done in order to bring up the legislation later on, most likely next week for a vote on a motion to proceed, not because the legislation will not receive a stand alone vote in the Senate.
The Senate vote on DREAM was tabled because under arcane Congressional procedure, if the Senate voted on anything other than the version passed in the House last night, they would have to have another set of votes later.
Senate Majority Leader Reid's comments from an unofficial floor transcript are below (they are incredibly wonky and are explained below):
MR. REID: AS I SAID THIS MORNING WHEN THE SENATE CAME INTO SESSION, THE HOUSE PASSED LATE LAST NIGHT THE "DREAM" ACT. I'VE ASKED CONSENT FROM MY COLLEAGUES ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE AISLE TO VITIATE THE CLOTURE VOTE. AND THAT WAS NOT GRANT THE THIS MORNING. WHICH I THINK IS FORTUNATE BECAUSE IT IS A WASTE OF THE SENATE'S TIME BECAUSE WE NEED TO ACT ON A PIECE OF LEGISLATION THAT IS ALREADY -- THAT HAS ALREADY PASSED SO WHEN WE SEND IT BACK TO THE HOUSE -- I'M SORRY, WHEN WE PASS IT, IT WOULD GO DIRECTLY TO THE PRESIDENT. WE'VE BEEN TOLD BY MY REPUBLICAN COLLEAGUES THAT THEY'RE NOT WILLING TO DO ANY LEGISLATIVE BIRKS WHICH I THINK IS UNTOWARD AND UNNECESSARY AND UNFAIR BUT THAT'S WHERE THEY ARE. SO THAT BEING THE CASE, MR. PRESIDENT, I WOULD AGAIN RENEW MY REQUEST THAT WE VITIATE THE VOTE ON CLOTURE THAT IS PENDING -- THAT IS PENDING BEFORE THE SENATE AT THIS STAGE.
THE PRESIDING OFFICER: OBJECTION HAS BEEN HEARD.
MR. REID: I MOVE TO TABLE THE MOTION TO PROCEED TO S. 3992 AND ASK FOR THE YEAS AND NAYS.
First and foremost... Senator Reid tabled this vote, because there is no Republican support for anything other then extending tax cuts.
However from a purely process stand point what all of this means (unfortunately my explanation is also absurdly wonky) is:
Last night the House passed a different version of the DREAM act than the one introduced in the Senate a week ago.
Under congressional procedure, if there was a vote today on the Senate version, and not the one passed by the House last night, and the Senate version passed, then the two versions of the legislation would have to be reconciled in conference.
Which would possibly require another vote later on, possibly in the next Congressional year. Which given the fact that the House will be flipping next year, would not bode well for a second passage.
So... the Senate will wait, to take up the House version of the legislation, at a later date most likely next week.
The most important take away from all of this is that the DREAM Act will get a vote in the Senate, and is not dead as some news outlets are reporting.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's spokesmen told Fox News:
"We still hope to consider it before we leave," a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told Fox News.
Last night the house passed the DREAM Act with a vote of 216 to 198, the Senate is expected to vote today.
Scott Wong of the Politico has the full story here:
After a two-hour floor debate, the House passed the DREAM Act along mostly partisan lines, 216 to 198, with 38 Democrats voting against the bill and eight Republicans supporting it. Democrats framed the legislation as a civil rights issue. Republicans denounced it as a “nightmare” amnesty plan that would encourage illegal immigration.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi passionately defended the measure:
"The DREAM Act itself symbolizes what it means to be an American. It’s about equality. It’s about opportunity. It’s about the future.”
Both advocacy groups and the White House had worked tremendously hard to pass the legislation in the house:
The House vote came amid an enormous push for the DREAM Act by immigrant activists and the Obama administration. The president telephoned lawmakers this week to rally support for the bill. In a statement, he called the DREAM Act part of a larger debate needed to fix the nation’s broken immigration system. “The DREAM Act corrects one of the most-egregious flaws of a badly broken immigration system,” Obama said. “A flaw that forces children who have grown up in America, who speak English, who have excelled in our communities as academics, athletes or volunteers to put their lives and talent on hold at a great cost to themselves and our nation.”
As the legislation heads to the Senate, it is unclear how if there are the votes needed to pass it:
The bill now heads to the Senate, where Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has scheduled a procedural vote for Thursday morning.But in the waning days of the lame-duck session, Senate Republicans have vowed to filibuster any legislation unrelated to the expiring Bush-era tax cuts and the funding of the government.
“In short, this bill would be a disaster,” Republican Senator Jeff Sessions said. “Yet Democrat leaders remain committed to their push for this amnesty. They are again defying the public will and sending the world a message that our nation is not serious about the integrity of our borders and our laws.”
"This is turning legislation related to our national defense and military preparedness into a vehicle to force a partisan agenda through the Senate," he said. "What's worse, the majority leader is pushing this controversial agenda under the cover of supporting our troops, knowing that the National Defense Authorization Act is a must-pass bill, and whatever else is in it will inevitably become law as a result."
The Senate GOP have just released a letter saying that they will block votes on any legislation that does not extend the Bush era tax cuts. The tax cuts in question are for those who make over $250,000 a year. As is, Senate Democrats would like to extend the tax cuts to all those who make less than $250,000 and allow the tax cuts for the wealthy to expire. The full letter from the Senate GOP to the Senate Majority Leader is posted HERE.
However, what makes this all so frustrating is that there was a time, literally four years ago when President George Bush was in power that the Senate GOP were among the most vocal supporters of the DREAM Act.
Scott Wong of The Politico has a story up entitled As GOP Rises, DREAM Falters, that puts the current actions by the Senate GOP in a more historical context and highlights just how far the Republican party has moved to the extreme right on this issue.
A perfect example of this shift can be seen in those GOP Senators who were apart of writing the original DREAM Act some ten years ago, now refuse to vote on the legislation for fear that they will meet a Tea Party Primary opponent in 2012. Case in point Orrin Hatch, Republican from Utah:
To see how dramatically the immigration debate has shifted, look no further than Orrin Hatch. The Utah Republican was the chief sponsor of the DREAM Act when it was first introduced in the Senate in 2001 and, later, in 2003. But now, worried about a potential tea party challenge in 2012, Hatch is steering clear of the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act.
Hatch has not been a vocal supporter of the DREAM Act for some time so his recent refusal to vote on it is not so surprising. What is somewhat more perplexing is Republican Senator of Indiana Dick Lugar, who was a co-sponsor of the legislation in September of this YEAR.
Support from Indiana Sen. Dick Lugar, who co-sponsored a version of the bill as recently as September, is now uncertain, with his spokesman saying the senator “doesn’t like the political games being played” and is exploring his options.
Hatch and Lugar's movement to the far right on Immigration is a symptom of something that has come over their entire party after a bruising election cycle which saw many of the parties moderate members eviscerated for siding with the opposition party on anything.
It’s a remarkable turnaround from four years ago, when a Republican president and a Republican Congress pushed to liberalize immigration and create a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. But chastened by a grass-roots movement against illegal immigration, Republicans taking control of the House are lurching in the opposite direction, drafting a series of border security and enforcement bills cracking down on illegal immigration for 2011.
It is still possible that those moderate Republicans in the Senate who do not have to face re-election in 2012 will step forward and vote in the affirmative on the DREAM Act.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, filed cloture on the motion to proceed to a stand alone vote on the DREAM Act.
This is not an actual stand alone vote on this economy helping, military preparedness strengthening legislation, but rather a vote to move to a stand alone vote.
If Senate Democrats are able to get 60 votes on wednesday, they will have another vote on final passage at a later time.
The full statement is below:
Sen. Reid today filed a cloture petition on the motion to proceed to the DREAM Act, setting up a likely vote for Wednesday. This bill would require children who came to America before the age of 16 and who have lived here at least five years to serve in the military or get a college education in order to gain legal status:
“Today I moved to bring up the DREAM Act, a bipartisan bill true to America’s core values that would strengthen our military and our economy while reducing the deficit.
“The DREAM Act would reduce our deficit by $1.4 billion over the next 10 years through the increased tax revenues that individuals who attend college and earn legal status will generate as they become doctors, engineers, or otherwise realize their full potential. And with our military overstretched and service members facing multiple deployments, this bill would strengthen our Armed Forces. That’s why the Pentagon, even under Republican administrations, has supported it for years.
“I hope my Republican colleagues, especially those who have supported the DREAM Act in the past, will join us in passing a bill that helps our economy and strengthens the military.”
On Wednesday the Supreme Court of the United States will hear the opening arguments in an ongoing case between the United States Chamber Of Commerce and the State of Arizona over the Legal Arizona Workers Act.
The Legal Arizona Workers Act is an immigration employee sanctions law that imposes stiff fines and sanctions against business that hire undocumented workers. Naturally this has led businesses in Arizona to sue, the state to revoke the law.
In the wake of Arizona's other homegrown immigration law SB1070, and the fact that the current law before the Supreme Court was written by then Governor of Arizona, now Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano the outcome of this case will have national implications.
David G. Savage of The Los Angeles Times has the full story here:
Obama's top courtroom lawyer will join the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in urging the Supreme Court to strike down an Arizona law that goes after employers who hire illegal workers. The administration also seeks to void a part of the state's law that tells employers they must check the federal government's E-Verify database to make sure their new hires are authorized to work in the United States.
What is at stake is not so much the outcome of whether the Legal Arizona Workers Act is constitutional, but rather whether states have the right to make their own immigration legislation. The outcome of this case could determine whether or not Arizona's other anti-immigrant legislation law SB1070 will be constitutional. While also slamming the door on various other copy cat laws which are springing up all over the country.
The move sets the stage for a high court ruling on the most disputed issue in immigration law: Can states and cities enforce their own laws against illegal immigrants, or must they wait for federal authorities to act?
At the center of this storm is the Obama Administration which has intervened on states ability to pass immigration laws, while trying to navigate its own enforcement policies in the future:
The administration found itself in an awkward spot in part because the Legal Arizona Workers Act was signed into law in 2007 by then- Gov. Janet Napolitano. She said it would impose the "business death penalty" on employers caught a second time hiring illegal workers, and blamed "the flow of illegal immigration into our state … [on] the constant demand of some employers for cheap, undocumented labor."
Now, however, Napolitano is Obama's secretary of Homeland Security, which enforces the immigration laws and administers E-Verify, a voluntary electronic program that checks whether new hires are authorized to work in the United States. Federal agencies and federal contractors are required to use the program.