This afternoon, the Senate failed to get the 60 votes needed to move forward on the defense bill and attach the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act to it as an amendment. For the first time in 48 years, the defense reauthorization bill failed to make it to the Senate floor debate following a 56-43 motion to proceed vote.
After the vote, I got the chance to speak with 21 year-old Michael Nazario, a former member of the Junior ROTC and the lead organizer of “DREAM Army.” Nazario is an undocumented immigrant who was brought to the U.S. by his parents 14 years ago in 1996. Nazario has dreamed of enlisting in the military but is unable to due to his immigration status. For the past few days, Nazario has led other young undocumented immigrants like him in staging a mock “DREAM Army” boot camp in front of Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) Phoenix office. McCain, who supported the DREAM Act in the past, voted against proceeding with the defense authorization bill. Nazario hopes McCain will reconsider his opposition in the future and thinks the two of them have a lot in common:
We decided to confront Senator McCain about this issue and tell him our stories. Tell him that not only do we want to protect this nation, we have so many things in common. We love this country, we cherish what we have in life. We’re not criminals, if anything we want the opportunity to protect and serve. [...]
I hope Senator McCain really looks at that. Right now I just want to give him a message if it’s possible for him to even get this. I feel like I am prisoner of this [immigration] war. I feel like I’m tied to this battle to these four walls and he has the key to this cell’s door. And all I’m asking for is to be free. I’m no different than you are. Get to know and if you do you’ll find out we love those country and I’m willing to defend this country as you did.
Nazario and other DREAMers I talked to hesitated to place blame on either political party. However, immigration advocates pointed to the fact that not a single member of the GOP voted to proceed with the defense authorization bill. Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice stated, “The best and the brightest of our nation’s immigrant community – who want to go to college and serve in our military – just had the door slammed in their face by the GOP.”
The largest Latino civil rights group in the U.S., National Council of La Raza, issued senators like McCain who have supported the DREAM Act in the past but voted “no” today a warning: “Today, more than a dozen so-called supporters of the ‘DREAM Act’ chose to use a procedural maneuver to avoid an up-or-down vote on the legislation, keeping the lives of young people in legal limbo. Some senators might think that they can flip-flop on this issue or hide behind such Washington-speak as ‘I support it but I won’t vote for it.’ They should be advised that the Hispanic community will not stop its push for the ‘DREAM Act’ and broader immigration reform, and the rapidly growing number of Latino voters will remember this vote in November.”