The DREAM Act’s Republican Landscape

susan collins and olympia snowe

Maine fence-sitters Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe

Earlier this week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) announced that he will introduce the DREAM Act after Thanksgiving. In a press release, Reid stated, “Last time we sought to bring up this bill, all Republicans blocked our effort, even though many have been supporters of the DREAM Act in the past. I hope that our Republican colleagues will join me, Sen. Durbin and Democrats in passing this important piece of legislation, now that we have a stand-alone version and that political season is over.”

Without the support of at least a handful of Republicans, the DREAM Act doesn’t stand a chance. Though the majority of Democrats support the legislation, Sens. Max Baucus (D-MT), Kent Conrad (D-ND), Byron Dorgan (D-ND), Kay Hagan (D-NC), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Ben Nelson (D-NE), and Jon Tester (D-MT) have all either voted against the DREAM Act at some point in their careers or expressed reservations about the legislation. However, in the past, the DREAM Act has enjoyed the support of a handful of Republicans. Immigration reform used to be a bipartisan issue. Where these Republicans seem to stand now is outlined below:

Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN): Lugar and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) introduced the DREAM Act on March 26, 2009. Although Lugar voted against moving on the Department of Defense (DOD) bill which included the DREAM Act as an amendment, his senior adviser explained that the lawmaker objected to “a vote on proceeding to the defense bill in a very politically charged and unusual way. The DREAM Act deserves a proper debate on its merits.”

Sen. Bob Bennett (R-UT): Bennett voted to proceed with debate on the DREAM Act in 2007. Bennett was stripped of his party’s nomination earlier this year and will be leaving the Senate in a month. Essentially, he has nothing to lose by sticking to his guns.

Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME): Snowe voted to proceed with debate on the DREAM Act in 2007. Snowe justified voting against the DOD bill in September by saying that “the Senate should have the ability to debate more than the three amendments the Majority Leader is allowing.” Snowe is up for reelection in 2012 and could always choose to stick with her party to play it safe.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME): Like her colleague, Collins voted in favor of the DREAM Act in 2007. Before voting against proceeding with the DOD bill, Collins explained, “I find myself on the horns of a dilemma, I support the provisions in this bill. I think it is the right thing to do. I think it is only fair… But I cannot vote to proceed to this bill under a situation that is going to shut down the debate and preclude Republican amendments.” Although she is not up for reelection any time soon, like her colleague (Snowe), Collins is feeling pressure to move farther to the right.

Sen. George LeMieux (R-FL): LeMieux’s predecessor, Sen. Mel Martinez (R-FL) was a strong proponent of immigration reform and the DREAM Act. Since Rubio will replace him in 2011, LeMieux doesn’t have to worry about getting reelected. Yet, he is “mulling” a 2012 Senate bid. He has also expressed some hesitation about the bill, saying, “It’s a very difficult situation for kids who are brought to this country and it’s no fault of their own. I understand that and I am sympathetic, but to attach this to this [DOD reauthorization] bill without trying to fix our broken immigration system is disingenous and irresponsible.”

Sen. George Voinovich (R-OH):Voinovich voted against proceeding with the DREAM Act in 2007. However, he has been a strong proponent of AgJOBS, a bill that would put undocumented agriculture workers on a path to legalization and has often been perceived as a swing-vote on immigration bills. He is also retiring from the Senate at the end of the year.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK):Murkowski voted against proceeding with the DREAM Act in 2007. However, she voted in support of the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2006. After a tough reelection race, it looks like she will be returning to the Senate to serve another a term. And chances are she’s not to happy with the Republican establishment after losing the Republican primary to Joe Miller.

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX): Hutchison voted in favor of the DREAM Act in 2007. However, since then, she has moved farther to the right on the immigration issue. She faces a tough primary in 2012.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX):Cornyn did not support the DREAM Act in 2007. Though he supported comprehensive immigration reform which included the DREAM Act in 2007, it doesn’t sound like he’s up for it in 2010. “This is getting to be a joke. No one believes that there is enough time that we could do a responsible job,” said Cornyn on the DREAM Act in July. According to him, the Senate should approach the issue in “a responsible, reasonable way and not just try to play to the peanut gallery and act like we’re going to do something we’re not.”

Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ): Kyl has supported immigration reform in the past, but voted against the DREAM Act in 2007. Like many of his colleagues, his immigration position has hardened and shifted to an enforcement-only approach.

Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA): Brown replaced the late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA), a champion of immigrant rights and a tireless advocate for immigration reform. Though there is a lot a pressure on him to take a pro-immigrant stance, so far, he has stuck to his anti-immigrant guns. He recently lashed out at Harvard University, stating “They should embrace young people who want to serve their country, rather than promoting a plan that provides amnesty to students who are in this country illegally.”

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT): Hatch has supported both the DREAM Act and immigration reform in the past. However, he is facing a tough reelection in 2012 and has already seen his colleague, Bennett, go down in flames. Given the political climate he’s facing in Utah, my guess is he’ll vote no.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA): Grassley voted in support of immigration reform in 2006, but against the DREAM Act in 2007. Over the past three years, his position on immigration has moved so far to the right, it is nearly unrecognizable.

Andrea Christina Nill

Reposted with permission from The Wonk Room.


  1. Joe says

    If the people of the U.S. realized the contributions U.S. policies make to impoverishment and dislocation of people (principally in this hemisphere) then they might conclude that there is no moral right for the U.S. government to deny entry to the economic and political refugees from those countries as long as there are free trade agreements permitting entry of goods and economic agreements permitting the entry of very high profits taken from those lands (and agreements permitting and government inducements promoting the exit of jobs from the U.S. to those lands).

    Were the above exploitations corrected, there would be less immigration, legal and illegal, of the desperate.

    There is another correction needed just as badly as the end of international exploitation: A fair system within the U.S. That means help for those being forced to pay personally for the domestic U.S. end of globalization and job loss and wage and benefit suppression: A good “safety net” of services such as health care, nutrition, and housing, and where necessary public programs to employ people in the infrastructure and other work needed here, all to help those who need such programs in the U.S. so that any ill effects on them of globalization, immigration, or the recent and continuing financial meltdown are ameliorated. These services can easily be paid for by slight increases in taxation of super-high earnings and proceeds of big property-swapping.

    As for the DREAM Act, it’s mostly a military recruitment ploy that uses the support of the minority of undocumented youth (who indeed need relief as much as citizens and other immigrants, legal and illegal) who can make it through two years of college, but at the expense of exposing the majority of their undocumented youth to the pressures of military recruiters, eager to fill their quotas and ranks with youth desperate for status, and use them to enforce globalization and resource-taking around the world — and even to help suppress popular movements in the lands from which their families took them to make their way to the U.S.!

    • Annette says

      Yeah, so solve the problem of crappy US policy wrecking the lives of people in other countries. But we shouldn’t enact new crappy policies that give amnesty to people who came here to escape problems in their own countries. All that does is temporarily clean up the mess the rich people have made in both this country and in third world nations.

      When we allow millions of illegal aliens to come here, and we make the US taxpayers fund their new lives here, we’re making it easier for the super rich who run/own our government and those who run and ruin countries like Mexico to profit from the inequities in third world countries while destroying the middle class here in our country.

      The solution is to solve the problem of US and international exploitation, not to temporarily ease the pressure by making the situation better for people who came here illegally to escape poverty in their own country. Focus on the problems that created this issue, and help those who have not snuck over the border into our country.

  2. Diane says

    The people who oppose the DREAM Act and other reform measures are angry, but if they had any direct experience of how the immigration system (and getting in line) actually works, they would be even angrier and would support a path to legalization.

  3. Fred Farkle says

    So Nina Hill writes 500 words of inside baseball, and never stops to mention whether this bill might actually be good for the citizens and culture of this country. Which of course it is not. Illegal immigration is a huge problem, Ms Hill. It’s overwhelming our schools, our hospitals, our social services, our police forces.

    Not to mention the insane lawlessness of it all. The Republicans are not anti-immigrant as you falsely claim, they are anti-illegal immigrant.

    The DREAM act is an amnesty bill with chain migration built in. It’s exactly the wrong kind of immigration policy this country needs.

    Yes, let’s legally bring in educated productive people who are willing to work hard within the law to become full-fledged American citizens. But, importing Mexican paupers and criminals en masse? That is the height of self-destructive stupidity.

    • Abe Smith says

      Fred, have you dealt with the immigration system here? It’s broken and sets undocumented students up for failure. Literally, the only choices I have to gain citizenship are to either marry an American, leave the country and be barred from reentry for 10 years, or to wait for reform.

      So tell me, what should I do? How can I earn my citizenship if the system won’t allow me; if it’s punishing me for my parent’s negligence (we’re not Latino by the way, this issue has a much larger scope.) I wish I could earn my citizenship the hard way, but there is no way.

      Let me give you an anecdote to illustrate this point: I recently had to get a root canal done. As an illegal, I can’t have insurance and had to pay $2000 cash within 60 days. This is a difficult task, but I was able to accomplish it with a lot of hard work doing odd jobs here and there. Moral of the story: you can trust me with any difficult task, so long as there is an honest way to accomplish it.

      But without the DREAM act there is no way for me to honestly gain citizenship in the only country I know and love. I’m just as American as anyone else: I’ve been here since the age of 2, I cannot speak my mother tongue, I know nothing about my home country (Saudi Arabia), I’ve gone K-12 here and only discovered my status during my Sophomore year of highschool. Honestly, Fred, I bet if you knew me for awhile you wouldn’t be able to muster up the strength to deport me. Why? Because seeing how similar my aspiration, dreams, and fondness of America is to other students you may know would force you to see the injustice in deporting me from what I consider to be my home country.

      I’m supposed to be a freshman at the University of Wisconsin-Madison studying computer science; however, because of my status I cannot afford college (I can’t get a job, and must depend exclusively on private scholarships.) I’m reduced to hanging around the Universities libraries, watching lecture videos and sitting in on classes trying to simulate a real college education. It’s really pathetic, especially knowing I have a mind and passion for technology that could elevate this country in every way.

      • Annette says

        There’s no way to become a citizen in the land you love? Bull. Apply and wait in line like everyone else who wants to become a citizen.

        …knowing I have a mind and passion for technology that could elevate this country in every way.

        If you get a college degree in an American university you’ll be all set to start your career in the high tech field of computer science. That would be great for you. But what about the American citizens who have to compete with you for that job, or even for space at that university? It doesn’t elevate this country by making taxpayers pay for your college education (and we do, by the way, even if you pay also- college costs us a lot more than just what students pay in tuition). It doesn’t elevate this country by giving amnesty to people who will compete with our own kids in a quickly shrinking economy. It helps YOU to get amnesty and become a citizen, but it doesn’t help American citizens one bit.

        I’m sorry your parents chose to bring you here illegally. I’m sorry you’re now in this situation. But I’m not sorry enough to give up my own family’s resources to make your life better. Because if we do it for you, my kids suffer, especially because more foreigners will repeat the unlawful trick your parents pulled on both you and this country.

        • tschebyshev says

           ” compete with our own kids in a quickly shrinking economy.”
          unemployment rate is not that high for college graduates compared to non 4 year college graduates. illegal immigrants are not substitutes for the vast majority of the public, they are also complimentary. Basically you are trying to pin a lack of confidence in your or your economic future on someone else, a scapegoat.

      • Abe Smith says


        Your mindset is very win-lose. If I go to college, that doesn’t mean your kids won’t be able to, and I’m sure they can stand on the merits of their own mental abilities (unless you want an easy ride for them, and have it so everything is uncompetitive and allows for your kids to squeak by life.) Besides that, if I’m a more competent worker than your child, I could be a better employee and benefit your neighbor’s, brother’s, or even your own business.

        And, please, do not trivialize the situation I’m in. I thought I was an American until my parents decided to clue me in during my Sophomore year. It’s been downhill since then. I’ve tried looking for ways to become a legal immigrant, and done the research, talked to lawyers, and read all the relative documentation — if you don’t believe me, call an immigration lawyer or read the forms at USCIS’s website. I need the DREAM act to give me a viable, honest, legal option out of this mess.

        Here’s a few things I thought would work, but don’t:
        Sibling Petition: My brothers and sisters are citizens, but because I’m not a legal immigrant, I won’t be given a visa through this route.
        Student Visa: I’m not a legal immigrant, so I’d have to leave the country and renter. As soon as I step of American soil, though, I’ll be barred for 10 years. I don’t want to live in Saudi Arabia for 10 years, I’m nothing like them.
        Work Permit (H1B): This almost worked, I had a technical company willing to hire and sponsor me; however, the fact that I’ve overstayed my visa means I cannot be given a new one.

        Finally, the DREAM act doesn’t take a dime from the taxpayer’s wallet: DREAM act students are ineligible for federal financial aid. This myth, along with others, has been dispelled. I urge you to learn more about what this legislation actually does instead of spouting off buzz words, and half digested facts. Here’s a wikipedia page to get you started.

      • Annette says

        Sorry Abe Smith, but when it comes to illegal aliens and amnesty, the situation is clearly win-lose. My kids might still get to go to college, but the seats are finite and limited. If you take one of those seats, someone else loses out.

        I know you’re in a hard situation, but if we give people like you a quick path to citizenship, all we’re doing is encouraging other parents to put their kids in the same situation you find yourself.

        We’ve given amnesty to illegal aliens three times already in the past half century, and all it did was depress salaries and encourage other foreigners to break the rules and come here illegally. The Dream is bad policy, and it’s being pushed through because liberals feel sorry for people like you. Feeling sorry for someone is not a good reason to pass bad policy.

      • Abe Smith says


        Pity shouldn’t be the driving force behind legislation, but you must see some injustice in punishing children for their parent’s crimes and not giving them any means to reconcile with the law.

        The DREAM act isn’t amnesty: it doesn’t give away green cards for free. It only helps a specific subset of very American immigrants who’ve entered the country before the age of 16, and must either serve the country through the military or education and keep a clean record. This only pertains to a relatively small group of immigrants — roughly 65,000 in size. The DREAM act was proposed to fix a very specific, unexpected hole in the immigration system, and not provide sweeping amnesty.

        Besides, a path to residency that requires one to get a diploma or risk their life in the military is a much better indicator of whether they deserve their citizenship or not (unlike simply getting married or being born into it.)

      • Annette says

        It would be a bigger injustice to reward illegal aliens with citizenship for their children. Why should you be a priority over the children of people who DIDN’T break the law to come here.

        Every time we have given amnesty, we encourage more illegal immigration. And yes, giving citizenship to people because they finish a college degree is definitely amnesty. Going to an American university is a huge opportunity that people from all over the world vie for. You’d displace those other candidates, as well as American citizens, and you’d then be able to compete with Americans for jobs after college. We’ve already given you a free education, and now you’re demanding more.

        A 2010 report by the Federation for American Immigration Reform states that illegal immigration costs us about $113 billion per year. That’s billion, not million. According to FAIR, around $84 billion of that cost is shared by state and local agencies, with approximately $52 billion a year being spent on public education of either illegal aliens or the children of unauthorized immigrants. So now that we’ve paid for the education of these young undocumented people, we’re supposed to reward them and their parents with citizenship ahead of others waiting to immigrate here? I’m sorry your parents put you in this situation, but parents do a lot of things that are hard on kids. Some parents use drugs and make their kids’ lives miserable, or they get arrested and go to jail or even dump their kids on society and other people. You’re parents should have abided by the rules and immigrated legally. Rewarding them now will simply encourage other parents to make the same choices yours did.

        The Dream Act is bad policy and shouldn’t be passed.

        • tschebyshev says

           injustice to whom really? do you really begrudge people for migrating here illegally so much that  uprooting their  lives is the best soln you can come up with? Any illegal immigrant who’s stayed here for say 10+ years is American enough 65-75 pc of the time. Besides FAIR IS not a respected institution of research.Illegal immigrants have a small negative effect on wages of teenagers,high school dropouts,overall they have positive spillover effects to most of the country. As far as rewarding illegal behaviour goes, most people who commit crimes/misdemeanours have  plea  bargains etc, this isn’t new. Illegal aliens have no effect on the waiting times or quota for legal immigrants.Since you obviously by your rantings know nothing about illegal immigration,immigration law, you caricaturize your observations and prescriptions into some simplistic form which is not concomitant with reality.Considering close to 50 pc of the popn attends a four year college, it’s not as if us Americans are threatened from attaining our educational goals mostly. It’s basically not wanting to see someone else do well in life when they’ve done nobody any harm other than not having their visa processing papers in order. Get a life, and some morality.

  4. Francis says


    The facts about the Dream Act and not the propaganda from Senator Harry Reid’s Liberal party leadership that must–END? Sen. Jeff Sessions put out the following release last week on the DREAM Act, that it’s an incremental illegal-alien amnesty bill. IT IS A VERY CAREFULLY PLANNED AMNESTY, FULL OF RHETORIC? BUT EVERY TAXPAYER NEEDS TO READ THE FULL TEXT OF THE WHITE PAPER. Remember your taxes are certain to accelerate upwards, to pay for all these indecent provisions.

    American citizens are already having money extorted from them to pay for the babies of illegal aliens born here, the education of illegal alien children, the health care for all family members and crammed prisons and jails for convicted illegal alien felons. All needs to to be paid for by your taxes? High on the list of Negatives is that the students, will be able to sponsor immediate family members under the chain migration law.

    Not so much the students who would become naturalized citizens, but the chain migration that would snowball for all family members. As I have said before we are committing financial suicide, because the majority of guarantors never honor their affidavits to support the people they vouch? In the end the older family folks who have never paid into the Social Security system, become another public welfare liability. Hundreds of thousands or may be millions have been allowed into America on the surety of the original sponsor, who failed to support his-her immediate family.

    Over the years taxpayers have been confronted with this issue, as the US government never had the man-power to enforce this sponsorship law. Years of non-compliance has be come yet another Social Security, (SSI) Supplementary Income of Tax payers left to pay even heavier taxes in support of people who were sponsored and then neglected. The amount of money that cannot even be estimated, that is being appropriated every year to account for the illegal immigration invasion.

    Another provision that misleads the public, is the fact that an illegal alien can join the military in this time of conflict and collect as a gaurantee a path to citizenship. Under under current law (10 USC § 504), the Secretary of Defense can authorize the enlistment of illegal aliens. Once enlisted in the U.S. Armed Forces, under 8 USC § 1440, these illegal aliens can become naturalized citizens through expedited processing, often obtaining U.S. citizenship in six months.

    The invasion hasn’t stopped and never will until we cut of all welfare entitlements?

    WANT THE REALITY OF COSTS? GOOGLE—Illegal immigrant costs and find out for yourself and then you decide? Then go to the Heritage Foundation website and it will explain with graphs, projections and text by the reputable in-depth analysis by Robert Rector.

    Next week will add further enticements for illegal immigrants to come here, if this Dream Act passes?

    Here is the full text of the Dream Act (S. 3827: Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act of 2010:

    These corrupted legislators will not even tell you the real costs, for settling instant-citizenship infants (Anchor Babies?) Here is the last chance to harass your Senator or Representative by phoning (202)224-3121. Challenge them to stop the Left wing zealots for planting another Amnesty in America called the DREAM ACT.

    • Igloo says

      Here are the myths:
      I have addressed each one of Sessions’s claims:

      For #1 of Session’s allegations, see Myth #6. Loans are paid back and DREAMers receive no federal grants.

      For #2 of Session’s allegations, “You can still be deported for …being undocumented, but not for applying for the DREAM Act and being denied. This is so that those who are unsure of whether they qualify or not and apply and are denied are not punished for merely applying. This provision extends to multiple laws in multiple forms, for example: any self-admissions of crime under police custody considered to be coercion cannot be used against you in court. Secondly you can apply for asylum or ANY petition to USCIS “no matter how frivolous.” THIS IS NOT EXCLUSIVE TO THE DREAM ACT. What matters is if you will be denied or not.

      For #3…, see myth #7.

      For #4…, see myth #4 and 5

      For #5…, see myth #1

      For #6…, The point isn’t to make them finish school, though most obviously would, but to make them have SOME schooling done. To say this isn’t enough is hypocritical, because what did you do to EARN your citizenship? They already have to do SOMETHING which is more than any other class of resident in the U.S., and to say they’re not doing ENOUGH is hypocritical. That’s like me saying “Your parents got a speeding ticket while you were in the cars, so not only do YOU get a ticket, but if you want to ever be in a car again, that isn’t enough, you have to go to traffic school too, even though you didn’t commit the crime yourself but were an accessory.”

      #7 is simply wrong. If illegal immigrants could join the military then Al-Quada members could hop the fence and join the U.S. military. In fact, the legislation Session’s is talking about is for people here LEGALLY on temporary visas.
      “The military does not allow illegal immigrants to enlist, and that policy would not change, officers said.”

      For #8… see myth #3.

      For #9… see myth #1, #8 and #9.

      For Sessions’ final claim #10…, this is redundant. see what I said for his claim #2.

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