Dream Vote Set for Saturday

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On Dec. 7, headlines like this one at Politico were rampant: “GOP Rises, Dream Act Falters.” But the very next day, the Dream Act passed the U.S. House of Representatives 216 to 198.

Since that historic vote there have been continued media reports of the bill’s demise. The Idaho Statesman ran an AP story on Dec. 11 saying the bill had been shelved. On Thursday, even NPR’s Neal Conan, who hosts Talk of the Nation, insisted the Dream Act was dead, upbraiding a panel of Dream-eligible students, who stood their ground.

Dream Act supporters have fought rumors of the measure's demise for nearly a decade now.

“That story has been written since the House vote—and we won the House vote,” said Tyler Moran, policy director for the National Immigration Law Center. Moran, who lives in Boise, was in Washington, D.C., this week helping to orchestrate a huge grassroots lobby effort for final passage of the Dream Act.

But even top Dream Act lobbyists like Moran told me Thursday afternoon that the earliest there could possibly be a vote on the measure, which offers young undocumented immigrants who want to go to college or join the military a path to citizenship, would be next Tuesday, Dec. 21.

And then Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, the rogue permanent goose in this not-so-lame duck, duck goose session, flipped the script. On Thursday evening, Reid suddenly pulled a huge bill that fund the operations of the federal government from consideration and set up a Saturday vote for both the Dream Act and Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell repeal.

The announcement of a Saturday vote—before Oregon Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden, a supporter of both measures, takes off early for cancer treatments—set Dream activists in motion. For weeks now, a growing crescendo of advocates have made public appeals for the Dream Act.

Most of President Barack Obama’s cabinet members came out with strong endorsements of the act, from the Secretary of Education to the Secretary of Defense. Religious groups and union members are making calls to senators urging them to vote for the Dream Act. Even conservative columnist Linda Chavez, former GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee and the libertarian CATO Institute gave it the nod.

Even Rupert Murdoch likes the Dream Act.

So who opposes the measure? Plenty of conservative groups. In the Senate, the main problem is that 42 or 43 senators have not pledged support, putting a filibuster-proof 60 votes just out of reach. Those opponents include Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo, who says he'd prefer comprehensive immigration reform that includes a fix for the borders, and Sen. Jim Risch, who says he's not ready to take a position until the bill comes up for a vote. Dream Act advocates have a list of senators—both Democrat and Republican—whom they think they can convince, but there has been little movement since the House vote.

“The people that are being targeted right now to come forward and vote for this are feeling tremendous pressure,” Moran said. "We are not at all operating under the assumption that we are holding a losing vote. We are operating under the theory that this is still possible."

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