(The Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees, and Border Security hosted a hearing Tuesday morning on the DREAM Act. The Senators in attendance were Patrick Leahy (Committee Chairman) of Vermont, Chuck Grassley (Committee Ranking Member) of Iowa, Dick Durbin (Senate Majority Whip and bill sponsor) of Illinois, Chuck Schumer (Subcommittee Chairman) of New York, John Cornyn (Subcommittee Ranking Member) of Texas, Al Franken of Minnesota, and Dianne Feinstein of California.
The witnesses on the first panel included DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, and Clifford Stanley, the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness.
The witnesses on the second panel included Ola Kaso, a prospective DREAM Act student, Lieutenant Colonel Margaret Stock of the U.S. Army Reserves, and Steve Camarota with the Center for Immigration Studies. )
As some people may remember, the lame duck 111th Congress (which was lame well before the election) attempted to pass a last minute version of the DREAM Act before the new Congress took over control in January 2011. Fortunately, the bill fell short of the votes necessary to meet cloture (consent to end debate) in the Senate. Majority Leader Harry Reid, Majority Whip Dick Durbin, and numerous other House and Senate Democrats cried foul and blamed the Republicans for maliciously ruining the future of “immigrant” children through the power of filibuster (a parliamentary procedure not exclusive to Republicans).
For the record, cloture failed by a vote of 55 to 41 on December 18, 2010 thanks to Democrat Senators Mark Pryor, Jon Tester, Ben Nelson, Kay Hagan, and Max Baucus.
On the other hand, Republican Senators Dick Lugar (who is up for reelection this year), Lisa Murkowski, and Bob Bennett voted in favor of the DREAM Act.
In other words, the cloture vote failed because Majority Leader Reid could not find the necessary votes on his side of the aisle, not because of the “so called” Republican obstruction (which was a failed campaign message before and after the 2010 election).
Fast-forward a little more than six months and the Democrats have their smallest House minority in decades and are barely in control of the Senate. However, they still dream the DREAM Act. Conversely, this time, instead of forcing the bill straight to floor they try a novel concept of first holding a Congressional hearing on the legislation, even if the hearing was a partisan circus of illegal alien adoration (say that three times fast).
The hearing was well advertised, especially after supporters of the legislation announced their plans to bus in numerous illegal alien children and pack the room. Indeed, the anticipated crowd was so large that the Committee had to switch venues from a room in the Dirksen building to a larger room in the Hart building. Thirty minutes before the hearing started, Hart 216 was so full that Senate staff and Capitol Police were directing people to an overflow room. The whole room was filled with students: legal, illegal, interns, and professionals alike. It was an intimidating sight, but the hearing itself was designed to be intimidating. It’s hard for a politician to say “no” when they know they are surrounded by people who want them to say “yes.”
Just prior to the hearing, Senator Durbin entered the room and made a point of being seen hugging the children and shaking hands with the supporters of his legislation. At least 95% of the room favored the DREAM Act prior, during, and after the hearing concluded.
The Committee was called to order with Senator Durbin leading the hearing after being granted special permission from Subcommittee Chairman Chuck Schumer, who had another hearing to attend. Senator Durbin presented his usual “think of the children” emotional appeal argument for the legislation in his opening statement, while Senator Cornyn, staring at the massive crowd and cameras began his statement with a nervous tone before collecting himself and stating his opposition to the bill.
Specifically, Senator Cornyn said, “It’s a Band-Aid and does nothing to fix our broken immigration system…nothing to prevent further illegal immigration.” He continued by asking an important and well thought question, “If we pass this bill, will we be back here in five years with the same bill.”
When Senator Feinstein took over with her opening remarks, she immediately defended the bill claiming it was not a hand out, but an “opportunity” for upstanding students. She said, “These youngsters have no culpability.” She continued by saying, “They’ve made great use of our education system,” as if it were something to be commended.
My parents, sister, and numerous friends are public school teachers. I cannot possibly understand how someone like Senator Feinstein can commend an action that takes away education dollars, increases class size, and puts American, legal standing children, at such a disadvantage.
Senator Feinstein continued her statement by saying, “these students work hard and want the American dream” and that “these borders have been more secure than they have ever been; people coming over in the thousands like the 1990s no longer happens.” Senators Schumer and Leahy gave similar emotional appeal type statements like Senator Durbin before turning the Committee over to witness testimony.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan was the first witness to testify and he presented an absolutely disgraceful statement, almost like he and Senator Durbin (both Chicago institutions) choreographed the presentation prior to the hearing. However, his account of the DREAM Act and his accusations are frightening.
Specifically, he said, “Our children’s long term prosperity will suffer because these kids can’t fulfill their potential” and that students who will benefit from the DREAM Act deserve a fair chance to succeed.” It’s like robbing Peter to pay Paul; he tries to justify fairness for the “DREAM kids” by taking fairness away from American kids. He went on to present some manufactured and grossly hypothetical number that between $1.4 and $3.6 trillion (note the $2.2 trillion gap between two numbers; Annual U.S. GDP is just over $14 trillion) of earnings would be generated by passing the DREAM Act. He continued by saying the United States needs to offer these kids low cost student loans and that the DREAM Act is not an amnesty, only legal status.
Why is the U.S. Education Secretary arguing for changes to immigration law in front of the U.S. Senate anyway? The Anti-lobbying Act of 1919 prevents federal officials from lobbying Members of Congress, but all those rules are thrown out the door if the federal official is invited to testify on the subject matter. For horror movie fans, it’s like inviting a vampire into your house, it renders you powerless. In this case, he was invited by Senator Durbin.
While Secretary Duncan was providing his testimony and explaining the “legalization” process, Secretary Napolitano sat next him and didn’t bat an eye while he essentially did her job. When she did testify, Secretary Napolitano (who likes to reveal her true colors when testifying before the Democrat controlled Senate, while keeping a tight lip during House testimony) opened with a clear affirmation of the DREAM Act. She said, “It’s important to the nation as a whole and it’s important to the mission of Homeland Security.” So, amnesty is essentially important goal of the Administration? Tell us something we don’t already know, Madame Secretary.
She continued to say, “We were disappointed this legislation could not overcome the filibuster” and that “It’s the right thing; it is the smart thing.” Furthermore, she said, these individuals do not pose a threat to public safety and that Congress does not appropriate enough to remove 11 million illegal aliens. On top of all that, she said, “Our priorities are strengthened by DREAM, allowing us to focus on real security threats.”
The third witness, Clifford Stanley the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness (another handpicked witness by Senator Durbin), said little more than, “It [DREAM] will have a positive impact on recruiting and readiness,” an empty testimony from an empty witness.
During questions, Senator Cornyn stood up to Secretary Napolitano by asking her if she ever asked Congress for the appropriations to enforce the law as written. She said, “We have provided the information, but we simply do not have the resources.”
Senator Cornyn, like his House counterparts, ended the conversation with Secretary Napolitano after giving her a chance to answer questions but instead receiving a change the subject type response. However, when Chairman Leahy asked her if DREAM encouraged more illegal immigration, she firmly said it would “absolutely not.” How can she answer Senator Cornyn with such an obscure answer, yet answer Chairman Leahy with such a firm answer and still remain a creditable witness. Senator Cornyn apparently concluded that she was not.
Not long after, votes were called, Senators left, and the second panel presented their testimony before a dwindling audience and few questions. However, when Senator Durbin finally concluded the hearing, the crowd erupted in applause; staged from beginning to end.
While the DREAM Act is not as much of a threat in the 112th Congress as it was in the previous Congress, it is still a threat nonetheless as supporters of the bill continue to sell the bill under the pretense of providing educational opportunities for helpless children. However, with a divided Congress, there is finally an opportunity to fight such accusations and communicate opposition.
JONATHAN OSBORNE is the Chief Legislative Assistant for NumbersUSA