Immigration reform advocates said Wednesday that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid owes “a debt” to Hispanics for helping him get re-elected, and they expect payback in the coming weeks with Senate action on a contentious immigration proposal.
Advocates say they are counting on the Nevada Democrat to take up the DREAM Act in the lame-duck session that begins Monday. Reid vowed to do so in the final days of his tight re-election campaign.
“Harry Reid has a debt and he made special promises in the midst of the election. Certainly immigration reform and the DREAM Act were part of his platform. ... That means he’s got a very specific and very immediate promise to deliver on,” said Ana Navarro, a Republican political strategist with expertise on Hispanic politics.
During a conference call with several advocates, Navarro said Reid “owes his political life” to Hispanics who turned out for him in his close race against GOP challenger Sharron Angle. Navarro said Hispanics came out in droves because of Reid’s support for immigration reform and his vow for action this year on the DREAM Act, which would give illegal immigrant children a path to citizenship if they go to college or join the military.
“He has made promises, and he must honor his word,” she said.
Carlos Saavedra, the national coordinator for United We Dream Network, said immigration reform advocates all have their eye on Reid and his plans for the DREAM Act in the coming weeks.
“We know there is Democratic leadership, and we’re just waiting for that to happen,” he said.
“We are pushing for immediate action,” added Ali Noorani, chairman of the Reform Immigration for America campaign.
Reid’s plans for the immigration proposal remain murky, however, and the path ahead is not pretty. In addition to the challenge of a short time frame and crowded agenda in the lame duck, Democratic leaders will have a hard time building GOP support for taking up the issue. They also may need to find a vehicle for the provision; Reid tried attaching the measure to the defense authorization bill in September, but that resulted in the entire bill grinding to a halt. A repeated effort during the lame duck could yield the same result. Beyond that, the White House has not mentioned the DREAM Act in its list of priorities for the lame duck.
A Reid spokesman said leadership has not “made any final decisions” yet on how to proceed on the issue.
But advocates say Democrats’ best shot may be taking up the DREAM Act as a stand-alone bill and holding a vote. Saavedra said some GOP Senators have indicated to him that they would support the bill on its own but not as part of the defense bill, a move that some “did not agree with” before.
“There is a commitment from Republican Senators to move this forward,” he said. “So I see it as very likely to move forward in the lame-duck session.”
Navarro reiterated that Reid has “other options” for moving the immigration measure without tying it to the defense bill. But she added, “He’d better die on the table trying to use those other options.”