Grate­ful Reid vows re­newed push for Dream Act

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY STEPHEN DI­NAN

The elec­tion has strength­ened Pres­i­dent Obama’s hand on im­mi­gra­tion, and Dream Act or­ga­niz­ers said it likely means a flood of hun­dreds of thou­sands of new ap­pli­ca­tions for his non­de­por­ta­tion pol­icy — but it’s not clear that any­thing has changed in the decade­long stale­mate in Congress on the is­sue.

Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Harry Reid, Ne­vada Demo­crat, said Nov. 7 that he will in­sist the up­per cham­ber hold votes on im­mi­gra­tion leg­is­la­tion.

He called the is­sue “very, very high” on his to-do list, af­ter His­pan­ics voted over­whelm­ingly for Mr. Obama.

Exit polls showed the pres­i­dent win­ning 71 per­cent of His­pan­ics, which is up from the 67 per­cent he won in 2008 in the rapidly ex­pand­ing voter bloc. Bask­ing in those num­bers, proim­mi­gra­tion ad­vo­cates said they are ea­ger to col­lect the re­wards of their sup­port.

“It’s time for Lati­nos to cash their check for the Dream Act and for im­mi­gra­tion re­form,” said Ce­sar Var­gas, who has ap­plied for Mr. Obama’s non­de­por­ta­tion pol­icy.

But he said the pres­i­dent’s vic­tory likely will mean a flood of ap­pli­ca­tions from other young adults who had waited, fear­ful that they would be judged by a less-le­nient Rom­ney ad­min­is­tra­tion than by Mr. Obama’s.

For the past decade, im­mi­gra­tion has been stymied in Congress, in­clud­ing failed at­tempts in 2006 and 2007 with Pres­i­dent Bush. Mr. Obama promised to take ac­tion dur­ing his first term, but in­stead tack­led health care, the econ­omy, cli­mate change and fi­nan­cial reg­u­la­tions.

Fac­ing re-elec­tion with­out hav­ing acted, he took uni­lat­eral steps in June by an­nounc­ing that he no longer would de­port most il­le­gal aliens 30 and younger who had steered clear of ma­jor crim­i­nal prob­lems. The pol­icy, known as “de­ferred ac­tion,” en­er­gized His­panic vot­ers on be­half of Mr. Obama — all the more so since Repub­li­can nom­i­nee Mitt Rom­ney op­posed the move.

Look­ing at the elec­tion, Frank Sharry, head of ad­vo­cacy group Amer­ica’s Voice, said the con­clu­sion is clear: Democrats, some of whom had been re­luc­tant to touch im­mi­gra­tion for fear of po­lit­i­cal con­se­quences, saw it as a ma­jor win­ner.

“Yes­ter­day’s elec­tion ba­si­cally said it’s a wedge is­sue for Democrats,” Mr. Sharry said. “Democrats are re­ally start­ing to feel their oats on this is­sue: ‘If we lean into it, it mo­bi­lizes Lati­nos, swing vot­ers ac­tu­ally like the lead­er­ship, and Republicans — it makes them di­vided.’ ”

All of that, plus Mr. Reid’s vow to hold votes with his ex­panded Demo­cratic ma­jor­ity in the Se­nate, should mean ma­jor pres­sure for a Repub­li­can Party still try­ing to fig­ure out how to re­build a win­ning na­tional ma­jor­ity in pres­i­den­tial elec­tions.

But vot­ers re­turned Republi- cans to a ma­jor­ity in the House, and there is lit­tle ev­i­dence that the cham­ber has moved closer to try­ing to pass the broad le­gal­iza­tion bills that Democrats seek.

Kris W. Kobach, Kansas sec­re­tary of state and the co-ar­chi­tect of many state im­mi­gra­tioncrack­down laws, said polling ear­lier this year shows in­de­pen­dents liked Mr. Rom­ney’s stand on im­mi­gra­tion more than Mr. Obama’s.

He said he doesn’t see any way that House Republicans would ac­cept an im­mi­gra­tion bill that in­cludes amnesty for il­le­gal aliens.

“The Democrats and Obama have been un­yield­ing on that point — that they in­sist upon an amnesty, and Republicans rightly said ‘No, we’ll go along with a whole host of changes, but not ones that re­ward amnesty.’ ”

Mr. Kobach, who is lead­ing a law­suit to try to halt Mr. Obama’s non­de­por­ta­tion pol­icy, said the more likely av­enue for ad­vo­cates said that is ex­actly what they will ask him to do if Mr. Obama can­not get a le­gal­iza­tion bill through Congress.

In his first term, the pres­i­dent walked a tightrope, in­creas­ing de­por­ta­tions and in­sti­tut­ing new agree­ments with state and lo­cal po­lice and jails to try to iden­tify de­portable im­mi­grants. But pa­tience is run­ning thin.

“I think he’s un­der time pres­sure be­cause 1 mil­lion peo­ple have been de­ported, and we

“It’s time for Lati­nos to cash their check for the Dream Act and for im­mi­gra­tion re­form,” said Ce­sar Var­gas, who has

ap­plied for Pres­i­dent Obama’s non­de­por­ta­tion pol­icy.

ac­tion is in the states.

He said he ex­pects more of them to adopt Ari­zona-style laws giv­ing po­lice pow­ers to check the le­gal sta­tus of those with whom they come into contact. The Supreme Court ear­lier this year up­held that part of Ari­zona’s law, though it struck down other pro­vi­sions.

But he also said he ex­pects Mr. Obama to use his own ex­ec­u­tive pow­ers more, in the face of con­tin­ued con­gres­sional dead­lock.

In­deed, pro-im­mi­gra­tion can’t wait around for an­other year or two as an­other halfmil­lion or mil­lion get de­ported,” said Dou­glas Rivlin, spokesman for Rep. Luis V. Gu­tier­rez, the Illi­nois Demo­crat who has taken on lead­er­ship of the im­mi­gra­tion is­sue in the House.

“Peo­ple’s lives are be­ing ru­ined in the mean­time be­cause we have a mass-de­por­ta­tion pol­icy. I know Con­gress­man Gu­tier­rez is go­ing to be very in­ter­ested in the pres­i­dent call­ing [Repub­li­can Sens.] Lind­sey Gra­ham or Marco Ru­bio or [Mitch] McCon­nell or who­ever he needs to call in the Repub­li­can Party, get them to Camp David for the week­end, and see what we can do on im­mi­gra­tion re­form — sooner rather than later,” Mr. Rivlin said.

Mr. Sharry agreed that Mr. Obama will face pres­sure to act, but said if pres­i­dent had the will, he could use the threat of uni­lat­eral ac­tion to force Republicans to the ta­ble.

“If he wanted to, what he could do is say, ‘All right, Republicans, work with me on this, or I’m go­ing to use my ex­ec­u­tive author­ity to do more pop­u­lar things that Lati­nos love,’ ” he said.

In the mean­time, Mr. Obama will still be able to grant ten­ta­tive le­gal sta­tus to younger im­mi­grants un­der his de­por­ta­tion poli­cies — some­thing Mr. Var­gas has waited for years to earn.

A law school grad­u­ate, Mr. Var­gas also hopes that the elec­tion could con­vince courts that the new de­por­ta­tion pol­icy is here to stay — which he hopes means he will be able to join the bar and prac­tice law.

“It means a lot to me,” he said. “It means I can try to be pro­duc­tive in terms of seek­ing out em­ploy­ment. It means that my younger brother can also get de­ferred ac­tion.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Ev­ery­body in: Char­lene Gomez leads an ori­en­ta­tion sem­i­nar for il­le­gal aliens in Los Angeles. Schools and con­sulates have been flooded with re­quests for doc­u­ments since the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion ear­lier this year said many young il­le­gal aliens may be el­i­gi­ble for two-year re­new­able work per­mits.

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