Las Vegas Sun

December 1, 2015

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Reid hoping renewed interest in Dream Act will give party a boost

In 2010, Sen. Harry Reid got lots of campaign mileage from a Dream Act vote he scheduled just a few months before a crucial election: It didn’t pass, but Nevada’s Hispanic community remembered the effort -- and turned out to vote for Reid in droves.

This year, Reid’s thinking about holding a similar vote on the act to give Democrats what he hopes will be a boost -- or Republicans what he hopes will be a beat-down -- prior to November.

“It’s going to pass -- when we get a few Republicans to help us. Just a few,” Reid told the Sun last week, adding if that he couldn’t come up with enough Republicans, it was “very possible” he would hold a vote to get everyone on the record prior to November, as he did in 2010.

Reid championed the Dream Act last week when he hosted Daniela Pelaez, valedictorian from North Miami Senior High School and an undocumented immigrant. Brought to this country by her parents at age 4, the 18-year-old would likely qualify for the Dream Act, which seeks to put undocumented immigrants who came to the country as children, and have completed some college or military service, on a pathway to citizenship.

Pelaez received a deportation order earlier this year, but last week, was granted a two-year stay on her deportation order by the Department of Homeland Security, under new policies the Obama administration adopted over the summer.

Reid used Pelaez’s visit to stress his commitment to the Dream Act: a component of the greater immigration overhaul he and others -- mostly Democrats -- have been angling for.

But not all lawmakers -- nor all Democratic lawmakers -- echo his support as strongly; and the extent to which a vote on the legislation could help the members Reid’s caucus varies by location.

Lawmakers who have opposed the Dream Act have done so stressing fears about how it would encourage exponential immigration levels once the immigrants who benefit from it are able to sponsor other undocumented relatives for citizenship. Many of those lawmakers have been pushing for Congress to spin off other parts of comprehensive immigration reform -- the enforcement parts -- instead.

Similarly, Reid won’t be able to compel the House of Representatives to vote on the legislation by holding a vote on it in the Senate -- and that could dampen its potential effect on the campaign trail in his home state.

In the past, Sen. Dean Heller, a Republican, has opposed the legislation, while Rep. Shelley Berkley, who is campaigning against Heller to fill that Senate seat, has supported it.

Reid says he has no plans to consider any potential part of a broader immigration package on its own except the Dream Act -- unless making a deal helps him push the Dream Act forward.

“I don’t intend to be spinning stuff off,” he said. “The only reason I would spin off any part of it is if I thought I could get an agreement that would help us get the Dream Act passed. I am not blind to what legislation is about, it’s about the art of compromise.

“But we need Republicans,” Reid stressed again. “I’d love to have a Republican come to me and say: here’s how we think it would improve their legislation.”

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