Dear Senators: Pass the DREAM Act (Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez)

The letter read, in part:

I believe there are at least 218 votes in the House to pass the DREAM Act. President Obama and the Pentagon have voiced their strong support for including the DREAM Act within the National Defense Authorization Act. An affirmative vote in the Senate would bring these exceptional young people one step closer toward fulfilling their dreams. The only thing standing in the way of giving these kids a fighting chance in adulthood is an affirmative vote in the Senate on the DREAM Act. We have already begun to hear the excuses from those who would wish our immigration, high school drop-out and military recruitment challenges away, rather than lead our nation to solve the problems we were sent to Washington to solve. We have heard the cynical political talk of naysayers -- who selfishly benefit from inaction -- so often we could script it ourselves. The only way our country, our military and our economy will benefit from all these students have to offer is if you vote to support them.

So here we have a very modest proposal, backed by the Pentagon, which included the DREAM Act in its strategic plan for 2011-12; that is backed by the President; that is backed by the American people; that is desperately needed in immigrant communities; and that would start moving the ball towards a real fix for the immigration issue that has bogged down the politics of every other issue on Capitol Hill for years.

But Republicans and some Democrats are indicating they may continue to hide behind procedural and weak political arguments to give them cover for not moving forward on the National Defense Authorization for FY2011, S. 3454.

The opponents of including measures like the DREAM Act and the repeal of "Don't Ask Don't Tell" imagine a world where gay and lesbian people and undocumented immigrants don't live in our communities, aren't being raised in American families, or aren't among those that want to serve this country or make a better life for themselves by seeking higher education. These measures are a way of recognizing reality and conforming our outdated laws to reflect it.

But, I have been debating naysayers on immigration reform for my entire career and most recently on Fox and Friends this very morning. The argument from the hardliners is always the same: we cannot fix our immigration system unless and until we remove all 11-12 million people who have lived in the U.S. illegally. We cannot have a legal, functioning immigration system that serves as an alternative to illegal immigration until those here illegally are deported and some notion of "Fortress America" on the border is achieved.

Essentially, hardliners are saying that we can never fix our immigration system because we will never deport that many people and because the vague notion of border security is a goalpost that will always move. No matter how many border guards, drones, or detention beds we put in place, no matter that we are already maxed-out in our capacity to deport people -- approximately 1,100 men, women, and children per day -- no matter how low the crime rate is in border communities, and no matter how low the flow of undocumented immigrants really is, they will never feel it is time to fix our immigration system.

The opponents of immigration reform are addicted to having immigration as a political wedge for Election Day and they are not willing to admit they have a problem and seek recovery from this addiction.

Even for the best and the brightest undocumented immigrants, raised in America, who were brought here as children, who have stayed out of trouble against all odds and dream of college or a military career, they say no. Even when all of those who would qualify for the DREAM Act are already in the country and it creates no incentive to come to the U.S. illegally, they say no. Even before a full debate is possible, they say no to even debating the issue with a threatened filibuster against the Defense Bill when we are fighting two wars.

I fully support Sen. Harry Reid, the Majority Leader, Sen. Dick Durbin, the senior Senator from my state, my good friend Sen. Robert Menendez, and our other pro-reform allies in the Senate in moving the DREAM Act forward and hope my Senate colleagues will give it the debate and the votes it deserves.