Democrats Should Not Capitulate on the ARMS Act


A protest in favor of the DREAM Act

A protest in favor of the DREAM Act. (Photo: Jobs with Justice/flickr)

The ARMS Act – the pared down version of the DREAM Act – does not make sense. By granting a path to citizenship only to those who sign up for the military, the bill precludes many undocumented youth who can contribute much to our economy and national well-being.

While it comes as no surprise that GOP lawmakers would support the measure suggested by Rep. Rivera (R-FL), it is stunning that some Democrats are actually considering the ARMS Act as a viable alternative to the DREAM Act.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), a co-sponsor of the DREAM Act, thinks the ARMS Act is “a step in the right direction.” Whitehouse told the Hill:

“If you are willing to accept that military service is the kind of bona fide that credentials a young person to take advantage of college benefits, I’d want to explore what other kinds of service might also qualify with them before I wrote off drawing the line there. I’ll do a bit more exploring but it’s a good start.”

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) still believes that the DREAM Act should be passed, but he is not ruling out a compromise.

“My belief is we should try to pass the whole DREAM Act. As for what compromise might come about, that’s down the road,” he said.

I don’t see why any lawmaker, Republican or Democrat, should even mull the ARMS Act when a majority of Americans support the DREAM Act—which, we ought to recall, passed the House in 2010.

Moreover, do Democrats wish to further erode Latino support?

Their party’s relationship with the Latino community is stressed as it is due to their inability to pass the DREAM Act and the Obama administration’s record number of deportations.

Thankfully, there are those who will put up a firewall against GOP attempts to water down the DREAM Act.

Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) thinks the ARMS Act is no more than “a deeply cynical ploy” to garner the support of Latino voters and  remains committed to a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrant youth through military service AND higher education.

Douglas Rivlin, Gutierrez’s Director of Communications, explained the Congressman’s position in detail:

The Congressman thinks a military-only DREAM Act is a non-starter.  It is simply a campaign gimmick to give Republicans someplace to stand in Florida, Nevada, Colorado and other states where there are Latino voters that softens their “I will veto the DREAM Act” absolutism in South Carolina, Iowa, and New Hampshire.  The Congressman sees it as pure politics and the legislation itself is irrelevant.  Other than — perhaps — the two remaining Representatives who voted for the DREAM Act when it passed in 2010, House Republicans are generally not interested in legalizing anyone under any circumstances, even if they have to get shot at first.

Democrats should see the ARMS Act for what it is and not compromise on the DREAM Act.

Originally posted on Feet in 2 Worlds, February 11, 2012.

Both Parties Propose Immigration Bills But Pass None

Immigration activists marched on the Capitol last October - Photo: Jelena Kopanka/Fi2W

Immigration activists in front of the Capitol. (Photo: Jelena Kopanka/Fi2W)

Democrats are thinking of introducing an immigration bill as early as December, CNN reported Monday. It is not clear what it would cover—possibly the DREAM Act—but apparently Congressional Democrats would like it to differentiate themselves from Republicans in order to secure Latino votes in 2012.

GOP lawmakers tend to focus on border security and enforcement. The National Security and Federal Lands Protection Act, for instance, passed the House Natural Resources Committee earlier this month and a vote in the Republican-controlled house is expected soon. The law would allow the U.S. Border Patrol to ignore environmental laws on federal lands including Glacier National Park and the Great Lakes.

The Scott Gardner Act is another Republican-sponsored bill and it seeks to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act by directing the U.S. Attorney General to take into federal custody any unauthorized immigrant arrested for a DWI or similar infraction by state and local law enforcement officials. The Enforce the Law for Sanctuary Cities Act likewise seeks to amend the Immigration and Nationality Act by penalizing states and other jurisdictions that block E-Verify and Secure Communities.

While trying to crack down on undocumented immigrants, Republican House members have simultaneously presented bills recently meant to attract foreign investors and high-skilled professionals. Rep. Jason Chaffetz introduced the Fairness of High-Skilled Immigrants Act which would eliminate country quotas for employment-based green cards. Rep. Raul Labrador proposed the American Innovation and Education Act of 2011 which would speed up green card applications for foreign-born grad students who have high-tech jobs waiting for them. These bills signify an acknowledgment in the GOP that immigration policy for legal immigrants needs to be reformed.

If the Democrats introduce anything, it will most likely be a bill that acquiesces to the GOP imperative for border security and enforcement while re-introducing DREAM Act provisions. Like all other federal immigration legislation, it will go nowhere. Fact is, nothing major will pass anytime soon. Not before the upcoming elections or during the 113th Congress, regardless of who takes control of the House of Representatives, Senate, and the White House.

Immigration laws that myopically emphasize border security and enforcement will not win the hearts of Latinos, even if this rapidly growing group of voters agrees with other Republican concepts. These proposals may pander to the conservative nativist base and pretend to address our nation’s economic woes, but at the end of the day, these measures skirt around the obvious need for comprehensive immigration reform, which many Latinos consider priority numero uno.

It is helpful to know where parties and politicians stand on immigration so we can hold them accountable. Party allegiance is not set in stone, a concept many of us are starting to embrace.

Originally posted on Feet in 2 Worlds, October 27, 2011.