LatinaLista -- For the thousands of undocumented students who have been working tirelessly for passage of the DREAM Act -- staging hunger strikes, peaceful sit-ins in the offices of Congressmen and women, organizing protest marches, creating petitions, Facebook pages, writing letters to President Obama and risking deportation by making their undocumented citizenship status public -- it looks like they will finally have their day in Congress.
Today, Sen. Reid announced that he plans to attach the DREAM Act to the Defense Reauthorization bill next week.
The DREAM Act provides legalization for young immigrants who plan to go to college or join the military. It's because of the military prong that the proposal can be attached to the defense bill.
Senate Majority Leader Sen. Harry Reid
Poll after poll shows that for the Democrats to tackle anything remotely having to do with immigration reform is just a risky, if not altogether bad, political move right now. When a reporter alluded to that in a question today to Sen. Reid about the reason for going ahead with the DREAM Act, he responded that doing the DREAM Act didn't have anything to do with Republicans or Democrats but what was right for these students.
Critics will be quick to say that Reid and his Party are still only doing this to garner Latino votes, but it doesn't matter. What Reid said is true -- the DREAM Act is for one group of people for whom this is long overdue.
While it's good news that the DREAM Act will be brought up for a vote soon, what's not being said is that the window of opportunity to pass the DREAM Act is only opened half-way. Sources in Washington tell Latina Lista that Thursday Sen. Reid will file cloture on the amendment, which essentially means no more talking about it but time to vote.
Friday, there will be no vote because most senators will be back in their home states to celebrate Yom Kippur. Monday is a "no vote day." Tuesday is the day anticipated that the DREAM Act will come up for a vote.
Yet, there are still Republicans on the fence about the issue. Unfortunately, less so because it goes against their conscience but more because it gets them harassed by anti-immigrant protesters and ultra-conservatives.
It's clear that the Latino community has to mobilize and call Republican senators to convince them it's time to use their votes to help these students, who by virtue of the criteria set forth in the DREAM Act, are more than deserving to have this amendment passed in their favor.
There's only one other slight problem -- convincing those Latinos who have fought so hard for comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) that passage of the DREAM Act as a standalone bill is the right thing to do for the larger community.
When today's announcement that Sen. Reid was willing to attach the DREAM Act to the Defense Re-authorization bill, there was not much of a reaction from corners of the Latino advocacy world who have been spearheading the fight for passage of CIR.
There exists a belief that by removing the DREAM Act from CIR that Congress will feel less inclined to pass a bill that doesn't specifically address the undocumented children of the community.
The blunt truth is that the DREAM Act has long been considered the Ace card for getting Congress to pass CIR. Now, with the prospect of DREAM Act actually coming to the Senate floor for a vote -- something that many critics never believed possible -- the reality is hitting home that CIR won't be happening this legislative session.
Yet, is that any reason for the Latino community to not come together and support these students?
There is a clear chance that DREAM Act could pass and all these students who have tirelessly joined with immigrant advocacy groups in the past to help with marches, petitions and sit-ins for passage of a CIR bill now need the support and involvement of those same organizations to get this bill passed.
Once this window of opportunity is closed, it's anyone's guess as to when it will reopen.
It is already being reported that conservative groups are gathering to lobby Democrats next week to NOT vote for the DREAM Act. One group is called Concerned Women for America whose Mission Statement I find at odds with what the DREAM Act would accomplish.
They say, "We are the nation's largest public policy women's organization with a rich 30-year history of helping our members across the country bring Biblical principles into all levels of public policy."
How sad that their "Biblical principles" don't align with Christian values, especially when it comes to the welfare of Latino children and young people.
If this group is successful in their lobbying efforts, it's because the Latino community didn't do our part to support these students.
It's time to help the students, stop their deportations, give them the opportunities to put their degrees to work, enter the military and make official the feeling that they grew up with -- being an American.
The Latino community has that kind of power to make it happen within their grasp. The question is will they use it?
(Editor's note: Updated: 9/15/10: Tuesday's vote is the cloture vote which means, "motion to proceed to the bill." If there are 60 senators behind DREAM Act, then it is on the Defense Reauthorization bill. A vote on DREAM would not occur until later in the week.)
To take action and support the DREAM Act, the University Leadership Initiative has provided the following:
Ask for the following people and leave a message with their office.
"Hi I am calling to ask that Senator _______ vote for the DREAM Act.This bill will allow for undocumented youth to fix their status by serving this country in the armed services in addition to allowing for them to return the investment our country has made in them.Please have the member support the dream act."
Sen. Hatch of Utah
Sen. Bunning of Kentucky
Sen. Bennet of Utah
Sen. Gregg of New Hampshire
Sen. Bailey-Hutchison of Texas
Sen. McCain of Arizona
Sen. Voinovich of Ohio
Sen. Snowe of Maine
Sen. Collins of Maine
Sen. LeMeiux of Florida
Sen. Brownback of Kansas
Sen. Hagan of North Carolina
Sen. Pryor of Arkansas
Sen. Landrieu of Louisiana
Sen. Conrad of North Dakota
Sen. Dorgan of North Dakota
Sen. Nelson of Florida
Sen. Baucus of Montana
Sen. Tester of Montana
Sen. Feinstein of California