FAIR Legislative Update December 20, 2010
Senate Rejects DREAM Act
This weekend, the United States Senate voted down the House version of the DREAM Act, H.R.5281. The vote was on a cloture motion to end debate on the bill, a motion that requires 60 votes to pass. Amnesty advocates, however, came up five votes short and the bill went down,55-41.
Leading up to the vote – and recognizing they would likely fall short – Senators Harry Reid (D-NV), Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ) made impassioned speeches in an attempt to persuade their colleagues to support the DREAM Act. Senator Reid said he was “committed to passing the DREAM Act” and that DREAM Act was an important short-term goal while Senators work towards passing “comprehensive” immigration reform. He described the legislation as limited, saying that it will only benefit “talented, motivated young people” who came here as children. He argued that legalizing these individuals will help grow our economy, help the Pentagon meet its recruitment goals, and is just the “right thing to do.” “The DREAM Act,” he said, “could be nothing further from amnesty.” (Senate floor statement, Dec. 18, 2010)
Senator Durbin stressed what he considered to be the moral underpinnings of the DREAM Act. He urged his colleagues to find “political courage” and to “do the right thing” by voting for the bill. He showed photos on the Senate floor of several individuals who would receive amnesty under the DREAM Act, describing how each was an outstanding student who had much to contribute to the United States. Moreover, he compared the vote on the DREAM Act to voting on civil rights for African Americans in the 1960s and for women in the early 20th century. (Durbin floor statement, Dec. 18, 2010)
Senator Menendez highlighted how Hispanics had contributed to American society, and especially to service in the armed forces, and warned his colleagues about the political implications of this vote. “[T]he Hispanic community is looking at this vote—40 million…. They understand this vote is about them, how they are viewed in this country, how they are perceived in this country….. (Menendez floor statement, Dec. 17, 2010) I don’t know how any party can aspire to be the majority party with the largest minority in the country growing exponentially, as we will see by the next census, and continuously take votes and cast aspersions upon a community and think that it can achieve political success.” (Id.)
Senators also spoke forcefully in opposition to the bill. Among these included Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) who argued that Congress continues to ignore what the American people want by repeatedly attempting to pass amnesty legislation such as the DREAM Act. “Leaders in Washington have not only tolerated lawlessness but, in fact, our policies have encouraged it,” he said. (Sessions floor statement, Dec. 18, 2010) “The American people are pleading with Congress to enforce our laws. But this bill is a law that, at its fundamental core, is a reward for illegal activity.” (Id.)
Senator Lindsay Graham (R-SC), who in the past has supported amnesty legislation, spoke out against what he considered Democratic Leadership’s abuse of the process. “To those who are bringing up this bill today, I know why you are doing it. You are not doing it to advance the issue. You are doing it to advance your situation politically. It is not appreciated. You are making it harder. You care more about politics in the last two weeks than you care about governing the country.” (Graham floor statement, Dec. 18, 2010) Sen. Graham then stressed the need to secure our borders: “We are not going to pass the DREAM Act or any other legalization program until we secure our borders. It will never be done stand-alone. It has to be part of comprehensive immigration reform. There is a war raging in Mexico that is compromising our national security. I would argue that the best thing for the Senate to do, the House to do, the administration to do, is work together to secure our borders before we do anything else.” (Id.)
The vote on the DREAM Act came in the last few days of the 111thCongress, as Democratic Leaders were desperately trying to pass an amnesty bill before Republicans take control of the House and claim more seats in the Senate this January, reducing the likelihood that such bills will make any progress. But Americans across the country strongly opposed the DREAM Act and called their Senators urging them to oppose it. In the end, the DREAM Act was so unpopular, Democratic Leaders were unable to pass it even in the final days of the lame-duck session of Congress with thirteen Senators leaving. Most political observers consider it unlikely that the DREAM Act, or any other amnesty legislation, will surface during the 112th Congress.
Nine illegal aliens were indicted and charged last week for engaging in a massive drug distribution ring in the nation’s capital. (Washington Post, December 15, 2010) All nine defendants illegally entered the U.S. from Mexico, where they reportedly have ties with the notoriously violent drug cartel known as “La Familia.” (Id.) This year alone La Familia, a cartel known to specialize in exporting drugs to the United States, has killed 20 Mexican federal agents and military officers in drug-related attacks. (Id.; The Washington Times, Dec. 15, 2010) One senior federal immigration official described La Familia as an “extremely violent” cartel that “won’t sell to their own Mexican citizens.”
D.C. Police launched the intense undercover investigation mid-November and then expanded it to include U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). (Washington Post, December 15, 2010;Washington Examiner, Dec. 15, 2010) D.C. police officers met with the leaders of the drug ring several times to discuss purchasing large amounts of narcotics. (Washington Examiner, Dec. 15, 2010) Agents also talked to the leader about his future plans for mass distribution of narcotics in D.C., which officials say is a virtually ‘untapped’ market for crystal meth. (Id.) In raids conducted last week, authorities seized over 50 pounds of crystal meth worth roughly $3.5 million, $118,000 worth of cocaine, $49,500 in marijuana and more than $35,000 in cash. (Washington Examiner, Dec. 15, 2010)
John Torres, special agent in charge of the D.C. ICE office, noted that the form of the drugs indicated the group was already sophisticated and organized. (Washington Post, Dec. 15, 2010) Eight of the nine suspects were arrested in various locations in Atlanta and North Carolina. (The Washington Times, Dec. 15, 2010) One defendant is still at large. (Id.)
A group of bandits in Rio Rico, Arizona (10 miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border) fatally shot Border Patrol agent and former U.S. Marine Brian A. Terry last Tuesday evening. (NY Times, Dec. 15, 2010) Terry, who had been an agent since 2007, was caught in the cross-fire while trying to protect illegal aliens from bandits who rob and sexually abuse them as they cross the border. (Id.) Four suspects were apprehended in relation to the shooting, including Manuel Arianes, a 34-year old Mexican national who was convicted in 2006 for assault on a Maricopa County police officer and had been ordered to be deported twice back to Mexico. (Examiner.com, Dec. 16, 2010)
“The murder of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry is a sad reminder of the real-life dangers that Americans and our law enforcement agents face along the southwest border,” commented incoming House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX). (Fox News, Dec. 15, 2010) “What will it take to make the Obama administration realize that we must do more to secure our border and keep Americans safe?” he asked. (Id.) Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano rushed down to Arizona the following day and vowed to prosecute the killers. She said, “We will honor his memory by remaining resolute and committed to the serious task of securing our nation’s borders.” (NY Times, Dec. 15, 2010)
According to Customs and Border Patrol officials, the last time a Border Patrol agent was killed in the line of duty was in July, 2009, when Robert Rosas, 30, was killed by unidentified assailants while responding to suspicious activity in a known smuggling corridor in California. (Fox News, Dec. 15, 2010) T.J. Bonner, President of the National Border Patrol Council (the union to which Border Patrol belongs) stated that 111 Border Patrol agents have been killed over the years. (NY Times, Dec. 15, 2010) “For such a small force to have lost so many agents just punctuates the danger that the men and women face every time they put on their uniform,” he said. “Even with all their training, sometimes evil gets the upper hand.” (Id.)