Yesterday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-NV) office indicated that it will move a defense authorization bill next week that includes a repeal of the military’s Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (DADT) policy. Today, Reid announced at a press conference that the bill will also include the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, or DREAM Act as it is known — an immigration bill that would put undocumented youth who were brought to the U.S. as children on a path to citizenship through completion of higher education or military service:
I think it’s really important that we move forward in this legislation, I tried to work on — I know we can’t do comprehensive immigration reform — I’ve tried to. I’ve tried so very very hard. I tried different iterations of this, but those republicans we had in the last Congress have left us.
The DREAM Act is really important. [...] That’s what the DREAM Act is all about: kids who grew up as Americans should be able to get their green cards after they go to college or serve in the military. So these are the two amendments [DADT and DREAM Act] that I’ve told Senator McConnell that I think are essential to the defense authorization bill. I hope they let us move to it.
In the past, Reid has indicated that he would only introduce the DREAM Act if he felt he had the 60 votes to break a filibuster. Reid didn’t indicate today whether he thinks he has those votes or not. However, a leadership aide told Wonk Room, “It’s going to be a battle to get this through no matter what.” Nonetheless, “He [Reid] felt it [DREAM Act] was the right thing to do. Simple as that. That and repeal of DADT,” said the aide.
Republicans have already balked at Reid’s proposal. Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ), who introduced a comprehensive immigration reform bill 2007, said that including an immigration provision as an amendment to the defense authorization bill “would be a mistake.” “That would not be the right place to consider that. I would not favor doing it there,” said Kyl. Sen. John Thune (R-SD) concurred with Kyl, saying he would “oppose an effort to add the legislation, or any non-military amendments, to the defense bill.” “It’s totally unrelated to the defense authorization bill…Last year they dumped hate crimes onto this. The defense bill ought to be about taking care of our military,” said Thune.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) himself also weighed in, stating that Reid has made the defense authorization bill “needlessly controversial.” “I can’t tell you right now how easy it will be to go forward with that bill,” said McConnell.
A study released by the Migration Policy Institute this summer estimated that out of the 2.1 million potential beneficiaries of DREAM Act legislation, 38 percent (825,000 people) would actually obtain permanent legal status due to the bill’s strict requirements.
Later in the press conference, when asked if he thinks he has the votes for the DREAM Act, Reid responded “I sure hope so.” In terms of whether he has the votes to proceed on the defense authorization bill, Reid stated, “We’ll sure find out. I don’t know.”