Democrats want DREAM Act in party platform
A trio of Democratic candidates want the measure added to the official list of party policies.
Democrats recently approved the addition of same-sex marriage into the party’s platform. Now a group of officials are pushing for the DREAM Act to be added when the party convenes for its convention in Charlotte, N.C. next month.
In an appeal to Latino voters, who overwhelmingly favor the long-stalled immigration bill, three candidates for Senate who hail from southwestern states with large Latino populations have joined the call. The Associated Press reports:
Rep. Martin Heinrich, the Democratic nominee for a Senate seat from New Mexico, is leading the effort and said that formally supporting the immigration proposal would provide voters with a clear choice on an issue that many care deeply about.
“I think the time has come for the DREAM Act to be part of our identity as a party,” Heinrich said in a telephone interview.
Democratic candidate Shelley Berkley in Nevada said she supports the campaign, and a spokesman for Richard Carmona in Arizona said he does as well.
Democratic officials believe that the growing Hispanic population in key battleground states such as New Mexico, Arizona and Nevada gives those who embrace the DREAM Act a competitive edge in this fall’s elections. A Pew Hispanic Center survey conducted in late 2011 found that more than 9 in 10 Hispanics support the DREAM Act.
Adding the DREAM Act to the party’s platform would largely be a symbolic act, as it wouldn’t do much to advance the bill in Congress. Instead, it would be the party’s latest effort to appeal to Latino voters. The party selected San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro to deliver the keynote address at the party’s convention. And President Obama announced in June that young undocumented immigrants eligible for legal status under the DREAM Act could apply for relief from deportation.
In an interview with Univision News, Carmona says he wants both comprehensive immigration reform and the DREAM Act added to the platform.
“What I really want is comprehensive immigration reform, which includes the DREAM Act. We need the whole thing done,” he said. “If I can’t get all of that, I think the DREAM Act is an important part of that.”
Carmona, who is not planning on attending the convention in September, said he wasn’t planning on making a formal request to the party. Instead, he said he is simply making his position known that promising young undocumented immigrants should be allowed to remain in the U.S. legally.
“I’ve met so many of these youngsters over the years who were brought here and they don’t even know that they were undocumented,” he said. “Why should we disadvantage them?”
It remains unclear whether the party will add language to the platform.
“The platform process is ongoing but the president and Democrats support the DREAM Act and are committed to taking steps toward passing it,” Democratic National Committee spokeswoman Melanie Rousell said in a statement.
The full platform committee will convene in a public meeting in Detroit on Saturday to hear additional amendments to the document.
Should Democrats decide to add the DREAM Act to their platform — the official statement of the party’s policy positions — it would allow them to further contrast their views on immigration to Latino voters. Republican Mitt Romney has said he would veto the current version of the DREAM Act should he be elected president, but has said he supports providing a path to legal status for undocumented military service members.
Pro-DREAM Act activists have mainly picketed Republican candidates who oppose the measure, but they have also demonstrated against Democrats since the law failed to pass through the Senate in 2010.
The party’s platform in 2008 backed broader comprehensive immigration reform, that included stricter enforcement measures in exchange for a path to citizenship for “millions living here illegally, but otherwise playing by the rules.”
“We must require them to come out of the shadows and get right with the law,” the platform said. “We support a system that requires undocumented immigrants who are in good standing to pay a fine, pay taxes, learn English, and go to the back of the line for the opportunity to become citizens. They are our neighbors, and we can help them become full tax-paying, law-abiding, productive members of society.”
Update 2:45 PM
Heinrich has officially petitioned the platform committee to add support for the DREAM Act. Read his letter below, which contains the specific language Heinrich wants included in the platform:
UPDATE 4:06 PM
A member of the platform committee, who declined to be named, told Univision News people should expect language supporting the DREAM Act and comprehensive immigration reform to be included in the Democratic platform.
“You can expect to have the platform reflect the president’s previous statements on the DREAM Act and his actions on the issue,” the member said.
(Photo: Flickr, Antonio Villaraigosa)