Thursday, September 17, 2020

Congressional “Lame Duck” Session Offers Opportunity for the DREAM Act

This week, the members of Congress return to DC for what is dubbed a lame duck session.  This will be the final chance for the Democratic majority to tackle some major legislation before the Republicans assume the leadership of the House of Representatives in January.

A number of controversial pieces of legislation await the returning members, including an energy bill and extension of unemployment benefits.  Add to that, a hope that on that to-do list is the highly politically charged issue of immigration in the form of the DREAM Act — a bill to provide a pathway to citizenship to thousands of young people who were brought to the US by their undocumented parents.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has expressed his intention to bring up the bill during this post-election session.  House Speaker Nancy Pelsoi  is reported to be exploring whether a similar vote would pass in the House this week.

The Democrats’ action would not be unexpected.  Earlier this fall, Reid attempted to get the Senate to move on the DREAM Act by attaching the bill to a spending bill, a move which drew the ire of Republicans.  The attempt failed, but even as a stand-alone bill, the prospects for its passage are considered slim.

Ironically, an out-going Republican member of Congress, Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-FL) is calling on Congress to move this piece of legislation.  Republican opposition to any immigration efforts that would legalize the status of some undocumented immigrants is what has kept Congress from being able to take up immigration reform measures.

This past election cycle saw the issue of immigration was used by some Republican candidates to “scare” voters into supporting them.  In Nevada, this tactic backfired, and resulted in a larger number of Latino voters turning out at the polls and being a big part of the reason Harry Reid won re-election in this tough electoral battle.

If unsuccessful during  the lame duck session, come January, the new Republican control of House committees that oversee immigration, and an increased number of Republican seats in the Senate, will make it that much more difficult for Democrats to deliver on promises of the DREAM Act or any other immigration legislation.