Sen. Kay Bailey
Hutchison has been tying herself in knots over the pending Dream Act. The Texan
reflects the predicament of many of her Republican colleagues from states with
large Hispanic populations.
Dream Act supporters have honed in on Hutchison and a handful of other
Senate Republicans to vote for the House-passed act in the current lame-duck
session. So far, Dick Lugar of Indiana and Bob Bennett of Utah are the only
ones to have signaled they will vote for the bill, making its prospects bleak.
But refusing to give up, 16 demonstrators were recently arrested at
Hutchison's office in my former hometown of San Antonio. Others have been
pressing at her offices in Dallas and Washington. Some have fasted for weeks.
Hutchison reminds me in many ways of a Republican Hillary Clinton. She
is sensible, political, polite and, beneath the surface, tough as nails. But,
curiously, the fire left her belly in her disastrous run in the Texas gubernatorial
primary this year against incumbent Rick Perry. She has not said whether she
will stand again for her Senate seat in two years.
The so-called Dream-ers see Hutchison as a moderate with a heart. She
formerly supported the core of the bill, which would provide legal status to
young immigrants who came illegally into the country if they go to college or
join the military.
Speaking on the Senate floor in 2007 about a virtually identical bill,
she said, according to the San Antonio Express-News:
"This is such an important piece of legislation, and I do think
this is isolated from the entire immigration issue because there ... are young
people who have been brought to this country as minors, not of their own doing,
who have gone to American high schools, graduated, and who want to go to
"They are in a limbo situation. I believe we should deal with this
issue. We should do it in a way that helps assimilate these young people with a
college education into our country. They have lived here most of their lives.
If we sent them home, they wouldn't know what home is. There is a compassionate
reason for us to try to work this out."
She still wanted then to explore some small details of the bill. But
now, she has largely rejected offers to negotiate terms to push the bill
The Democrats have tried to anticipate some of her desired adjustments
by lowering the age limit for eligibility to under 30 and expanding
requirements to achieve citizenship, including a 10-year wait and a clean slate
with the law.
But Hutchison refuses to show her cards. Perhaps it is because she was
burned by the right-wing Republican base in the gubernatorial race. But she
also declines to say outright that she opposes the act's core. Latinos make up
nearly a quarter of the Texas electorate and are approaching 40 percent of the
population. According to a recent LatinoDecisions poll, 86 percent of Latino
voters in Texas favor the Dream Act.
So Hutchison dances. She leaves it to her staff to say only that the
bill is "too broad" or more time is needed, though the bill has been
around for a decade. A few weeks ago, she proposed that affected students be
given temporary student visas, but this would result in the students having to
leave the country after finishing school.
A group of conservative Republican Hispanics last week threatened to
look for a Hispanic-friendly candidate to challenge Hutchison should she seek
re-election. "If Hutchison punishes our children, there are going to be
consequences in 2012," the group's founder, DeeDee Blase, told The Dallas
For now, Hutchison is safe behind a wall of Anglo Republican votes, but
similar stories of Latino resentment over the Dream Act are playing out for
other Republican senators. John Ensign in Nevada and Jon Kyl in Arizona, for
example, are both up for re-election in two years and might find themselves
fighting the rising tide of Latino votes in the West, particularly in the
Perhaps they need to lose to find their conscience. Tellingly, of the
eight Republicans who voted for the Dream Act in the House, three were Latinos
and six will not be around for the next Congress.
Read AL DIA NEWS Spanish Version here: Dream Act: El idílico baile de la Senadora Hutchinson
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