As you may know already, the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act -- best known as the DREAM Act -- died in the Senate yesterday after failing to get the necessary 60 votes to pass. The measure would have allowed undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children an opportunity to become citizens upon completing two years of military or college, in addition to fulfilling other stipulations. (For more details, see Megan Peck's cover story on the DREAM Act published in the Sept. 9 edition of the Orlando Weekly.) The bill had already been shot down by the Senate in late September; after the mid-term elections, however, Obama and other prominent Democrats lobbied fellow legislators heavily to give the DREAM Act one more shot before a more Republican Congress goes to work next month, effectively dooming any chance for the bill whatsoever. The San Diego Union-Tribune described the bill's failure as marking a "tilt to enforcement" with regards to how the immigration issue will be treated in a more conservative Capitol Hill. But according to the Washington Post, the Obama administration had already been ramping up enforcement long before the mid-term elections, ironically, to build bipartisan support for administration-backed measures like the DREAM Act.
Whenever Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez (D-Ill.) and other immigrant-rights advocates asked President Obama how a Democratic administration could preside over the greatest number of deportations in any two-year period in the nation's history, Obama's answer was always the same. Deporting almost 800,000 illegal immigrants might antagonize some Democrats and Latino voters, Obama's skeptical supporters said the president told them, but stepped-up enforcement was the only way to buy credibility with Republicans and generate bipartisan support for an overhaul of the nation's immigration laws.
The new record high for deportations may not last long, however -- according to a June report by the Huffington Post, at least 20 states are entertaining immigration laws resembling Arizona's SB1070, which allows police to question a person's immigration status and arrest them on the spot for inability to produce valid documentation. Florida is one of states that could jump on the bandwagon -- Republican legislators from both the state Senate and House have introduced bills with similar language.
Under President Obama's direction, the Justice Department sued the state of Arizona over its new immigration law in July. Yet that was before the Democrats' drubbing in the November elections, so it remains to be seen how tenaciously the Obama administration will pursue this case, given the president's apparent shift to the center.
(Note: Those who guess that demographics play a larger role than policy in the increased deportations should note that the number of undocumented immigrants in the U.S actually decreased 8 percent from 2007 to 2009.)
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