Yesterday morning President Obama met with leaders of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus to discuss strategy on passing the DREAM Act during the upcoming lame-duck session of Congress.
As the meeting was taking place, a report about it on Fox produced an interesting exchange between wingnut extraordinaire Mike Gallagher and Democratic pollster Bernard Whitman. Gallagher was ranting about how angry the Tea Party base out there was about this kind of "giveaway" for "illegal aliens" blah blah blah, and Whitman made a terrific point:
Whitman: If you cannot find a bipartisan approach to at least beginning to solve the immigration problem by granting citizenship to those children who came when their parents did, and are going to school and serving and giving their lives in the military, you are going to fail.
... This exactly exposes the lie that the Republicans are. Because they have no interest in forging bipartisan consensus on any issue. And eventually the voters are going to wake up in 2012 and say, 'You know what? We gave these people a chance, they have no desire to cooperate on any piece of legislation, even a common-sense piece like this,' and you will be thrown out of office again.
I've been a big supporter of the DREAM Act and have battled against Arizona's xenophobic SB1070 from the beginning. During our blogger meeting with Obama, I discussed how committed C&L is to the Latino community and I asked the president about his support for the passage of the DREAM Act and immigration reform. I wanted to make the point that this is something he needs to get behind:
Q: Crooks and Liars has been very proactive for the Latino community and rights, for immigration reform. And you’ve just gone on Spanish radio and said how we need comprehensive immigration reform. I guess I have two points. One is, will you -- how far will you go on helping to get the DREAM Act passed? Because it’s very important. -- How do you expect or hope to get conservatives onboard with truly doing immigration reform?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, look, this is a challenge. I mean, right now, I’ll be honest, we are closer to getting the votes for “don’t ask, don’t tell” than we are for getting the votes for comprehensive immigration reform. That’s a reversal from four years ago when you had John McCain and Ted Kennedy cosponsoring comprehensive immigration reform.
The center of gravity within the Republican Party has shifted. And so out of the 11 Republicans who are still in the Senate who voted for comprehensive immigration reform, I don’t know that any of them came out in favor publicly of comprehensive immigration reform during the course of the last couple of years.
And that’s a problem, because unfortunately we now have essentially a 60-vote requirement on every single issue, including trying to get judges confirmed who’ve passed through the Judiciary Committee on a unanimous basis. Having said that, I think the logic behind comprehensive immigration reform is sufficiently compelling that if we are making the case forcefully -- that we’ve increased border security, we have more Border Patrols down on the border than we’ve ever had before, we’ve got more resources being devoted to enforcement than before -- and yet the problem continues, that means that we’ve got to try something different.
And that involves, on the one hand, being serious about border security, but it also involves being serious about employers and making sure that they’re not exploiting undocumented workers, and it means getting the 10 to 12 million people who are in the shadows out of the shadows and giving them an opportunity to get right by the law so that we can create an orderly process in which this is still a nation of immigrants and it’s a nation of laws.
So I’m going to keep pushing for comprehensive immigration reform. It is going to continue to be a priority of my administration. I’m going to try to make the case to Republicans and to the American people that it’s the right thing to do.
The DREAM Act is one component of it that I’ve been a strong supporter of. I was a sponsor -- a cosponsor of the DREAM Act when I was in the Senate, and what I told Piolin when I was on his radio show, and what I’ve said repeatedly, is that my strong preference is to do a comprehensive piece of legislation. But I’m going to consult with immigrants’ rights groups and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. If they see an opportunity for us to get the DREAM Act and they think this is something we should go ahead and do now and that it doesn’t endanger the possibilities of getting comprehensive immigration reform, the other components of it, down the road, then that’s something I’ll consider. But my goal right now is to do a broader approach that allows everybody to get out of the shadows, paying their taxes, and contributing to our society.
President Obama gave a long answer, but I wasn't sure how far he would take it. The Latino vote helped save Harry Reid's Senate seat, but the point is all about human decency. I have to say that I was really pleased that he just told the CHC and other Democratic leaders that he wanted immigration reform done and that he would push to pass the DREAM Act in the lame duck session.
President Barack Obama told Democratic members of Congress Tuesday he wants the DREAM Act passed in the lame duck session as a “down payment” on substantial immigration reform, according to members at the meeting.
And, he said, he’d call resistant senators to get them on board.
The president told Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Reps. Nydia Velasquez (D-N.Y.) and Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) in a meeting at the White House that he would call members holding out on approving the DREAM Act, which provides a path to citizenship for young illegal immigrants who complete two years of college or military service.
“What we said to him was, ‘We know you’re for comprehensive immigration reform. We have a window. It’s closing. Be for this. Let’s all be for this specific part,’ ” Gutierrez told reporters off the floor of the House. “And he said, ‘I will call the members and say I’m for comprehensive immigration reform, reiterate my commitment to it. I’d like this as a down payment.’ ”
“Nydia asked him if he’d help. And he said just call me and give me the names. And he would begin to personally call members that need it. Any help that we need in terms of phone calls,” Gutierrez said. “He said ‘My policy is the following. I will call and tell them I am committed to comprehensive immigration reform. Give me the dream act in the lame duck.’”
America's Voice responded very positively to this news:
Immediately following the meeting, Representative Luis Gutierrez released an enthusiasic statement in support of DREAM: When I met with the President today, I told him that we need him to join us in fighting for the DREAM Act. I told the President we need him now and that we cannot waste another day and must push for a DREAM Act vote in the House and Senate during the lame-duck. It is not the time to hesitate or be unclear about what we are fighting for. We need the DREAM Act. I see it as a down payment on comprehensive reform and we will continue working towards comprehensive immigration reform today, tomorrow, and until it passes.
But I will not pass up the chance to save a million or more children who grew up in the U.S., who know no other country, and who are threatened with deportation unless we act. With the White House, Majority Leader Harry Reid, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and every Democratic Leader in the House and Senate pulling in the same direction, we can pass the DREAM Act before the end of the 111th Congress. Speaker Pelosi has indicated to me personally that she wants the House to move on the DREAM Act. Majority Leader Harry Reid has consistently supported a DREAM Act vote during lame-duck, and now the President and I have had an opportunity to discuss the lame-duck strategy.
The right-wing fringe will freak out because of their hatred for anyone that doesn't look like Pat Buchanan, but let them. This would be a big victory for the entire Latino community and in political terms this would be something that some of his base would really enjoy.
And as Bernard Whitman says, it is a victory that Democrats will be able to turn against Republicans and demonstrate, once and for all, just how petty and destructive their petulant obstructionism really is.