Read a Pacific Northwest, liberal perspective on world, national, and local politics. From majestic Redmond, Washington - the Northwest Progressive Institute Advocate.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

DREAM Act killed on procedural vote; five Democrats part of obstructionist opposition

"For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die."

Ted Kennedy, 1980

As Ted Kennedy so eloquently said a little more than thirty years ago, the task of remaking America and raising quality of life is a never-ending vocation, particularly since even incremental progress is difficult to achieve.

That truth was validated today when the Senate failed to advance the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act (or DREAM Act).

The DREAM Act would allow young people who entered America without proper authorization as children to obtain permanent residency if they enlist and serve in the military for at least two years, or if they complete two years of education at a four year institution of higher learning.

Passage of the legislation is actually a goal of the Department of Defense, which is seeking to maintain "a mission-ready, all-volunteer force".

The DREAM Act has been introduced in several incarnations since 2001, the year it was initially written. Despite having undergone several revisions, the legislation has never made it through Congress. It received added impetus recently when President Obama made it a legislative priority, and Nancy Pelosi managed to successfully steer it through the House of Representatives last week.

Today, however, the DREAM Act, in its current form, became the latest victim of the U.S. Senate's undemocratic rules, when it was blocked from moving forward on a vote of fifty-five to forty-one. If the Senate actually adhered to the principle of majority rule, we would be celebrating the DREAM Act's passage at this moment. Instead, we're once again left contemplating why a supposedly democratic legislative body can't function democratically.

The DREAM Act could have cleared all procedural hurdles were it not for five Democratic senators who sided with most of the Republicans. They are Max Baucus and Jon Tester of Montana, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Kay Hagan of North Carolina, and Ben Nelson of Nebraska.

They are the DREAM killers, because had they voted with their Democratic colleagues, this legislation would be headed to President Obama's desk.

Their betrayal is beyond disappointing. They have no legitimate objection to this legislation. The purpose of the DREAM Act is to allow innocent kids with "good moral character" to obtain permanent residency so they can have a future in this country. It is not amnesty, as the bill's opponents have claimed.

Kids who have come to this country, the so-called land of opportunity, and want to contribute to its prosperity and well-being should be allowed to do so. The DREAM Act is not a free ride. The DREAM Act does not provide a "get out jail free" card: young people who want to take advantage of it would have to stay out of trouble and prove themselves. They would have to behave responsibly.

The DREAM Act "is not only the right thing to do for talented young people who seek to serve a country they know as their own, it is the right thing for the United States of America," President Barack Obama affirmed in a statement sent to NPI.

"Our nation is enriched by their talents and would benefit from the success of their efforts. The DREAM Act is important to our economic competitiveness, military readiness, and law enforcement efforts.'

"And as the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office reported, the DREAM Act would cut the deficit by $2.2 billion over the next ten years. There was simply no reason not to pass this important legislation."

While the President says his administration "will not give up on the DREAM Act", there is no chance of it passing before 2013. In a few weeks, Republicans will control the House of Representatives, and they will make sure the DREAM Act stays on ice for as long as they wield the gavels.

Senator Harry Reid is also losing Democratic votes in the Senate, adding to the difficulty of getting anything through Congress' smaller chamber.

We thank Senators Cantwell, Murray, Merkley, Wyden, Begich, and Murkowski for voting to move this legislation forward.

They did their part, and for that, they have our appreciation. We are also grateful to Senators Durbin and Menendez for their leadership on this issue. We hope to celebrate the passage of the DREAM Act in 2013.


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