Who’s Still Dreaming the Dream?


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.

Emil Guillermo is an independent journalist/commentator.
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The views expressed in his blog do not necessarily represent AALDEF’s views or policies.
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