Latinos are the fastest growing minority group in U.S., making up 15 percent of the population. With less than 50 days until the general election on Nov. 2, their votes could determine how the government addresses immigration. Democrats in both the Congress and Senate are working to pass an immigration reform bill this year.
While it is unlikely that the measure will attract the needed 60 votes in the Senate, Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and Reps. Nydia Velazquez (D-N.Y.) and Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) are scheduled to meet with President Obama on Thursday at the White House to discuss the Development Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act.
The DREAM Act will give the children of illegal aliens that do not have citizenship the opportunity enlist in the military or go to college in order to help gain legal status. The act was introduced by Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill), but has previously been rejected by the upper chamber. In 2007, the bill fell eight votes short in a cloture vote, 52 to 44.
Because the DREAM Act will be an amendment to the defense authorization bill, it will be a yes or no vote and Republicans will not be allowed to offer a amendments or a competing immigration measure.
According to The Hill, though comprehensive immigration is dead in this Congress, the DREAM Act is an important step toward overhauling the nation’s immigration laws. However, some Democrats admit that an immigration reform effort could be put on hold for years if this attempt fails, especially if Republicans gain control of the House in 2011.
On the GOP side, many believe this issue will help get conservative voters to the polls. In recent weeks, Some Republican Senators have discussed the possibly of changing or repealing the 14th amendment, which gives the children of illegal immigrants born in the U.S. a right to citizenship.
Democrats are working against the clock. Comprehensive immigration reform is a big issue amongst Latino voters. A poll from LatinoMetrics revealed that 65 percent of voters want to see reform this year. Without immigration reform or similar legislation, polling data indicates that between 25 and 33 percent of those who want to see reform would stay home on Election Day.
Immigration rights advocates have not forgotten Obama’s 2008 promise of immigration reform. According to The Washington Independent, the president said he will continue to push for comprehensive immigration reform and pledged his support for the DREAM Act.
Carmen Singleton is an intern with C&E.
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