Over the past year, as young immigrant youth organized around the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, resistance came from an unexpected source: the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC). The CHC has long argued that the DREAM Act must be part of a comprehensive immigration bill that puts all undocumented immigrants on an earned path to legalization. Back in August, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) stated, “The Hispanic Caucus doesn’t want us to take one part of comprehensive immigration reform which may be easier to pass — but instead pass it as part of comprehensive immigration reform.”
Today however, at the Reform Immigration for America campaign’s “Relief, Reform, Respect for our Families” forum, CHC Chairwoman Nydia Velázquez (D-NY) announced that the caucus supports Sen. Harry Reid’s (D-NV) addition of the DREAM Act as an amendment to the defense authorization bill, stating “the time is now” for the DREAM Act:
As chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus I stand here before you to say that all along we have said to the Democratic leadership — in the House and in the Senate — and to the President every time we’ve met with him that we will not stand in the way of the DREAM Act, but there has to be a commitment that no amendments will be allowed to be included in this bill. We will support the DREAM Act. [...]
And we stand here before you as a representative of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus to say that the time is now and we call on Senator Reid and the senators to pass the DREAM Act.
Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) — the lone Latino in the Senate — spoke before Velázquez and reiterated that he wants a vote on the DREAM act without amendments “so we can know who stands with those students.” Menendez also announced that he will introduce legislation — “not a framework” — outlining immigration reform. Menendez did not give a timeline for his bill, but assured the audience that it will include a “path to legalization.”
It sounds like President Obama is likely on board with the strategy, telling La Opinion last week, “I just don’t want anybody to think that if we somehow just do the DREAM Act, that that solves the problem…We’ve got a bigger problem that we have to solve. We still need comprehensive immigration reform. The DREAM Act can be an important part of that, and, as I said, I’m a big supporter of that. But I also want to make sure that we don’t somehow give up on the bigger strategy.”