Hispanic Group Rips Democrats' DREAM
Immigration bill loaded with 'unsavory provisions' ripe for fraud and abuse
Around the State
A national Hispanic group blasted the lame-duck Congress' passage of the DREAM Act, saying Democrats "loaded it with enough unsavory provisions to show that they are either not serious or are using a false commitment to Latinos to score political points."
Hispanic Leadership Fund president Mario Lopez said, "Once again, Democrats showed that their commitment to posturing and political gamesmanship takes precedence over actual reform."
The DREAM Act, which would grant in-state college tuition and a path to citizenship to hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants, passed the House 216-198. All but 38 Democrats voted for the measure. All but eight Republicans voted against it.
Florida's Democratic congressional delegation was unanimous in its support -- including lame ducks Kendrick Meek, Alan Boyd, Suzanne Kosmas, Alan Grayson and Ron Klein.
Three Florida Republicans -- Lincoln Diaz-Balart, Mario Diaz-Balart and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen -- broke ranks and voted for the bill.
While Lincoln Diaz-Balart, another lame-duck retiree and co-sponsor of the bill, called DREAM consistent with American "meritocracy," Lopez said the measure flings the doors wide open to fraud.
"It's just too broad. There's a criminal exemption -- even if you've committed crimes, you're eligible," Lopez said.
"There's also a safe harbor from immigration enforcement. Once you apply for DREAM, that information cannot be used in deportation hearings. We want to uphold the laws."
Now the attention, and political pressure, turns to the Senate, where a threatened Republican filibuster makes passage less certain.
Republican Sen. George LeMieux, whose interim term expires in January, has been lobbied aggressively by pro-immigration groups to switch sides and support DREAM.
But looking to a prospective 2012 election bid, LeMieux said he would not vote for the bill. In a statement released Thursday, he said:
"Fully funding and replicating our security successes across the border would allow us to address the DREAM Act. However, we are still far from achieving a level of border security that is acceptable to me or to the American people."
Amplifying his critique, Lopez also called Republicans to account.
"Let's be clear: If Republicans think that it is good policy or good politics to punish kids on the cusp of earning their way into college for their parents' transgressions, then they are making a mistake," he said.
Lopez's Washington, D.C.-based organization -- whose advisory board includes former Florida Republican Party Chairman Al Cardenas and former U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez -- bills itself as "a nonpartisan advocacy organization dedicated to promoting free enterprise, limited government, individual liberty and traditional values."
"The Latino community has been batted around like a football," Lopez said of the DREAM debate.
In opposing the DREAM Act, Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Tequesta, said, “Immigration reform must start with securing our borders, upholding the law, and rewarding those who follow the rules. The DREAM Act would provide an incentive for individuals to come here illegally, undermine the rule of law, and move rule-breakers to the front of the line."
Sunshine State News earlier this month cited a Center for Immigration Studies report that Florida taxpayers could be on the hook for $472 million in added annual tuition subsidies under DREAM.
The House bill would grant in-state tuition to illegal immigrants who came to this country before age 17. Illegals up to age 35 would qualify for the tuition breaks and, upon completing two years of college, would be eligible for U.S. citizenship.
“I strongly oppose provisions that would make students who are here illegally eligible for in-state tuition breaks," Rooney said. "Taxpayer money should absolutely not subsidize the higher education of illegal immigrants."
Rooney added that the bill had one worthwhile component: citizenship in exchange for military service.
“While I do not support the DREAM Act, I would be willing to consider a stand-alone bill that would grant legal residence status to anyone who puts on the uniform and serves in the U.S. military," said the former JAG Corps lawyer.
Applauding the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and others for pushing DREAM through the House, President Barack Obama cited a Congressional Budget Office analysis that estimated the act would cut the deficit by $2.2 billion over the next 10 years.
The CBO arrived at that figure by factoring in anticipated tax revenues from DREAM's new citizens.
But Obama failed to mention that costs would go up significantly after 2020 as these newly naturalized residents sponsor their parents and relatives, who, as citizens, become eligible for a full range of social-welfare services, including federally mandated health care.
Opponents of the DREAM Act also criticized its poor timing, noting that legalizing another wave of illegal aliens will only exacerbate America's high unemployment rate and potentially crowd out U.S. citizens from colleges that are already strapped for cash.
“At a time when unemployment is 9.8 percent nationally and near 12 percent in Florida, Congress should be focusing on ways to help unemployed Americans get back to work,” said Rep. Bill Posey, R-Rockledge.
“Instead, this bill opens the floodgates to further illegal immigration, making it harder for Americans to find jobs here at home. It also allows noncitizen students to compete with American students for limited slots at our state universities.
"Do other countries afford Americans the same opportunities?" Posey asked. "I’m not blind to the situation of the children of illegal immigrants, but my priority right now must be to help Americans."
Referencing the CBO cost scoring, Posey added, "Let’s remember that they missed the mark on Obamacare by nearly a half a trillion dollars.”
Incoming Gov. Rick Scott on Wednesday reiterated his opposition to the DREAM Act.
"I don't believe in amnesty," he said during a tour of the Port of Miami.
Contact Kenric Ward at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (772) 801-5341.