Acting up: John Cornyn on dreams, criminals and hypocrisy

Washington has a lot of great performers, but John Cornyn on immigration continues be the best act in town.  

For those new to the content, the DREAM Act legislation offers talented young people who came to the United States as minors a chance to earn legal status and a path to citizenship – if they meet a set of stringent criteria and attend college or enlist in the U.S. military.  Last Congress, the DREAM Act fell just five votes short of becoming law, having passed the House with bipartisan support and winning 55 votes in the Senate. As longtime DREAM sponsor Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said last week, “I ask my colleagues to consider the plight of these young people, who find themselves in a legal twilight zone through no fault of their own. They are willing to serve our country, if we would only give them a chance."

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Yet in the face of such stories and the scores of DREAMers packing the hearing room, Senator Cornyn chose to blow the dog whistle of demagoguery when he emphasized that those who had committed a misdemeanor might be eligible (he failed to mention the strict "moral character" standard approved applicants would have to meet) and then proceeded to read a list of misdemeanors, including drug possession, burglary, and assault. The revulsion in the room on the part of the young DREAMers, most of whom have outstanding records of academic and extracurricular achievement, was palpable. 

As the designated Republican attack dog at the hearing, Cornyn noted that the Democrats’ push for the DREAM Act "had all of the hallmarks of a cynical effort to use the hopes and dreams of these young people as a political wedge in the runup to the 2012 election." 

Cynical? This from the Republican Party that voted against DREAM in the Senate last December by a 36-3 margin; the voting block that remains the only obstacle to the passage of DREAM? Please.

In his most dramatic flourish, Cornyn also used the DREAM hearing to reaffirm his supposed commitment to immigration reform. Cornyn’s DREAM remarks included a wistful statement that the DREAM Act “sadly, does nothing to fix our broken immigration system… it does nothing to reduce the likelihood of future illegal immigration." 

Yet given multiple opportunities to actually achieve these goals by passing a comprehensive immigration reform bill, Cornyn voted no on bipartisan comprehensive immigration bills supported by President Bush in 2006 and 2007.

 Senator Cornyn, we agree that piecemeal measures like the DREAM Act are not the full solution – so help us work toward passing a comprehensive immigration reform bill to regain control over the entire broken system.  

Alternatively, if you and your colleagues continue to stand in lockstep opposition to full and lasting immigration reform, then work with us to provide a long overdue path to legal status for the hundreds of thousands of young people who are Americans in all but paperwork. In other words, stop saying we can’t pass DREAM because we need the very same comprehensive reform that you are helping to impede.

Senator Cornyn, isn't it time to stop acting like an immigration reformer and start being one?

Frank Sharry is the Executive Director of America’s Voice