Betraying the DREAM: Nativists in the Senate to Remember in 2012

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I'm going to continue the pro-migrant on-the-ground organizing work I've been doing in Massachusetts in Maine, but I'm hoping to make more time for the blogging I've recently neglected moving forward.  This is because I feel there needs to be an honest public conversation critiquing the pro-migrant movement up to this point, as well as a healthy discussion about how to move forward.

A small disclaimer before I begin: my voice, as always, is a small one among giants, particularly the giants of the migrant youth movement.  I agree with my co-blogger, Dave, when he says "Let DREAMers lead, allies must follow."  A big part of why I don't feel the need to blog anymore, is because I don't feel my voice is really needed with DREAMers speaking so loudly for themselves, these days.  Still, I'm hopeful that my humble thoughts will be useful to some.  As always I welcome thoughts and critiques, and am always open to changing my mind. 

There's been lot's of proclamations about never forgetting the Senators who voted against the DREAM Act on Dec. 18, 2010, but not a lot of clarity about exactly who to hold accountable.  Some people are saying Republicans blocked the DREAM Act, others are going hard after Democrats who blocked the DREAM Act.  I even made a slight mistake.  In referencing the five Democrats and 36 Republicans who blocked the DREAM Act, I neglected to mention the one Democrat and three Republicans who didn't even feel the DREAM Act was worth showing up for to vote on.  I don't know what's a greater form of disrespect, voting against us, or not even considering us worthy of showing up to vote for.  Even worse, all of the Senators who failed to show up to vote all publicly stated at some point or another that they would vote against us.

What follows is my analysis of exactly who to hold accountable in 2012 and why.  I will try to narrow down the list of 45 Senators who stood against us to a select group that I think we have the most power to influence going into 2012. 
First, I will start with a complete list of Senators who voted against us or failed to show up to vote, and then I will break some of them up into categories that deserve special mention: 

NAYs ---41
Alexander (R-TN)
Barrasso (R-WY)
Baucus (D-MT)
Bond (R-MO)
Brown (R-MA)
Brownback (R-KS)
Burr (R-NC)
Chambliss (R-GA)
Coburn (R-OK)
Cochran (R-MS)
Collins (R-ME)
Corker (R-TN)
Cornyn (R-TX)
Crapo (R-ID)
DeMint (R-SC)
Ensign (R-NV)
Enzi (R-WY)
Graham (R-SC)
Grassley (R-IA)
Hagan (D-NC)
Hutchison (R-TX)
Inhofe (R-OK)
Isakson (R-GA)
Johanns (R-NE)
Kirk (R-IL)
Kyl (R-AZ)
LeMieux (R-FL)
McCain (R-AZ)
McConnell (R-KY)
Nelson (D-NE)
Pryor (D-AR)
Risch (R-ID)
Roberts (R-KS)
Sessions (R-AL)
Shelby (R-AL)
Snowe (R-ME)
Tester (D-MT)
Thune (R-SD)
Vitter (R-LA)
Voinovich (R-OH)
Wicker (R-MS)

Not Voting - 4
Bunning (R-KY)
Gregg (R-NH)
Hatch (R-UT)
Manchin (D-WV)

Merging the Four "Not Voting" with the 41 "Nays"

A note on the Senators who failed to even show up for the vote:  All of them made plain that they would have voted against the DREAM Act if they were present, so from this point forward I will include them among the 41 Senators who stood against us.  In my opinion, the fact that they failed to even show up for the vote should be registered as a even greater act of disrespect than a no vote.  These Senators should have at least had the decency to deny DREAMers their futures to their faces. 

In this group of four, Senator Jim Bunning (R-KY) was the focus of some particularly fierce advocacy by the Kentucky DREAM Coalition, or the KY DREAMers, so his absence deserves particular mention.  The most shameful absence, however, was that of Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT).  Hatch introduce the original DREAM Act along with Dick Durbin (D-IL), when it was much more expansive than it is now.  That he failed to even show up should be registered as one of the greatest acts of political cowardice in the history of the pro-migrant movement. 

Six Nativist Democrats

Five Democrats voted against the DREAM Act, Max Baucus (D-MT), Kay Hagan (D-NC), Ben Nelson (D-NE), Mark Pryor (D-NE), and Jon Tester (D-MT).  Joe Manchin (D-WV) failed to even show up for the vote, but made very clear that he was against the DREAM Act.   Democrats that deserve special mention in this bunch for betrayal are Senator Hagan, who I can't believe still voted no after the pressure of the NC DREAM Team, and Senator Tester, who many progressive bloggers helped elect

There are lot of people, even leaders within the migrant youth movement, who are using the votes of these six Democrats to hold the Democrat party accountable for the failure to pass the DREAM Act.  Anyone who knows me, knows that I'm not a partisan.  Quite frankly, I hate the two-party system.  I think it's irrevocably broken, especially at the federal level, and can say with honesty that I hate Democrats just as much as I hate Republicans.  The Democrat party deserves to be held accountable for it's failure to keep its nativists in check in an effort to at least get us passed cloture on the DREAM Act, and for failing to bring up the DREAM Act sooner when it would have more likely passed. 

Ben Nelson, for instance, though he said frankly that he opposed the DREAM Act in 2007, still voted for cloture then.  Democrats should have twisted enough arms to get five of the six Democrats to at least not filibuster the lives of hundreds of thousands of migrant youth.  That Democrats failed to do so, and even worse tried to put all the blame on Republicans without calling out folks in their own party, shows very clearly, I think, that they are not a pro-migrant party.

Saying that, we all knew a subset of the Democrat party was nativist.  The migrant youth movement has known since 2007 that many of these nativist Democrats were going to vote against us on the DREAM Act.  Kay Hagan is the biggest surprise, perhaps, because she wasn't around for the 2007 vote, but she made very clear in many public statements before this vote that she opposed the DREAM Act.  Democrats still have to be held accountable but to blame the entire Democrat Party for the failure to pass the DREAM Act just isn't honest in my opinion.  There's lots of things to blame Democrats for, tearing apart our communities at record rates being among the worst offenses, in my opinion.  The credit for the failure of the DREAM Act on Dec. 18, 2010, though, in my opinion should go largely to the next group of Senators that I'm going to name:

12 Republican Hypocrites

Republicans are not stupid.  They know that they can't win the Presidency in 2012 without the pro-migrant vote, and they know that in the future if they fail to appeal to a new generation of pro-migrant voters, particularly Latino voters, they will be relegated to the minority for a long time to come.  If you want an example of a Senator who very effectively was able to paint Democrats as anti-migrant before he flipped his nativist switch on, follow Senator Lindsey Graham's (R-SC) trajectory.  For the longest time, Graham was the lone Senator on board with comprehensive immigration reform (CIR).  He was the only Senator speaking the truth about the Obama administration and Democrats failing to take any concrete steps to do anything about it. 

Then Graham jumped ship after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) tried to put immigration reform before climate change, and jumped the shark when he started talking about eliminating birthright citizenship.  His latest rant about DREAMers visiting his office "wasting [their] time" which was broadcasted live into every Spanish speaking home in the U.S., personifies the depths to which many previously "pro-migrant" Republican Senators have plunged.  I'm not speaking here, of course, of pro-migrant heroes Bob Bennett (R-IN), Richard Lugar (R-IN), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK).  I will write a thank you post later, but even they failed to show any real leadership in getting the DREAM Act passed.  Folks blaming Democrats for failing to lead on the DREAM Act should also fault these Republicans for failing to lead.  

America's Voice has a listing of Republicans currently in office that have taken pro-migrant votes in the past.  Republicans who voted for the DREAM Act in some form before include: Sam Brownback (R-KS), Susan Collins (R-ME), John Cornyn (R-TX), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), Kay Bailey Hutchison (D-TX), Jon Kyl (R-AZ), and Olympia Snowe (R-ME).   Added to this list should also be Republicans who voted for comprehensive immigration reform before which include: Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Judd Gregg (R-NH), John McCain (R-AZ), and George Voinovich (R-AZ).

The above Republicans are supposed to be pro-migrant, and I've defended some of them in the past.  People can try and blame Democrats all they want but I put the blame for the loss of the DREAM Act squarely on these hypocrite Republicans.  I started making the case for moving the DREAM Act forward independent of comprehensive immigration reform almost two years ago because I thought these Republicans would stand with us.  I'd rather have a nativist Democrat who I know is against me in office than a Republican hypocrite.  The only disclaimer I'll offer to that is that I've been focusing most of my organizing efforts on Republicans like Scott Brown (R-MA), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Olympia Snowe (R-ME).  My disillusionment with them might be coloring my perspective so you can take it or leave it. 

12 Nativists, 6 Specifically, to Hold Accountable in 2012

Now that you know who I put the blame on in the U.S. Senate for the loss of the DREAM Act, I'm going to try and channel that energy productively into a preliminary list of who the pro-migrant movement should try to hold accountable in 2012.  I'll start by listing the 12 Senators who are up for re-election in 2012 among the 45 who stood against us. 

John Barrasso (R-WY)
Scott Brown (R-MA)
Bob Corker (R-TN)
John Ensign (R-NV)
Orrin Hatch (R-UT)
Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX)
Jon Kyl (R-AZ)
Joe Manchin (D-WV)
Ben Nelson (D-NE)
Olympia Snowe (R-ME)
Jon Tester (D-MT)
Roger Wicker (R-MS)

Look at the above list closely.  If you have any influence in any of the above states and/or Senators than I suggest you start exercising your influence now.  I'm going to highlight six of the Senators, in alphabetical order, who I believe we have the most power to make examples of, through my admittedly limited understanding of such things.  Suggestions and critiques are always welcome in the comments.   

Scott Brown (R-MA): Nativist To Remember in 2012


My hatred of Scott Brown isn't even really rational, anymore.  I feel a very personal sense of betrayal when I think of him.  For those of you that follow me closely, you know that I organized around getting a meeting with Scott Brown.  That's probably where the hatred comes from.  Scott Brown voted against in-state tuition in the Massachusetts State House, and was elected on a nativist "no amnesty" platform, but there was a period after his election where it seemed as if he might be open to the DREAM Act.  That all changed when he publicly went after Harvard with a simultaneously homophobic and anti-migrant attack.  That move made my blood boil, but I also thought it would make it relatively easy to get him unelected in 2012.  You can't get elected in Massachusetts by bashing both migrants and gay people.

Scott Brown isn't as dumb as he sounds when he speaks, though.  By voting in favor of repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell on the same day he voted against the DREAM Act he made it a lot harder to get him unelected, in my opinion.  According to Public Policy Polling he's also in a really good position going into 2012.  Still, Massachusetts is one of the most liberal states in the union, and there's a still a good chance he will have a competitive race.  I certainly would like to beat him over the head with his DREAM Act Vote, and see where it takes us.  I'll bet anything that polling in Massachusetts would show an overwhelming amount of folks support the DREAM Act.  Produce a few advertisements with sympathetic DREAMers speaking about Brown denying their dreams and I think it will have a real impact.   

John Ensign (R-NV): Nativist To Remember in 2012

John Ensign has never voted for any form of comprehensive immigration reform or the DREAM Act, but he's still worth mentioning because of the election Harry Reid (D-NV) just won, and the growing Latino vote in Nevada.  In fact, I would say if there's anyone we want to make an example in 2012 and have a real shot at beating, we should make an example of Jon Ensign. 

In the same way Sharron Angle went after Reid with racist ad after racist ad, we should go after Ensign with ads featuring sympathetic DREAMers in both Spanish and in English.  I'm not sure if the ground game Reid used to beat Angle will translate into the same sort of victory over Ensign.  There's still a lot of factors to be considered including who the Democrat nominee is and whether or not Ensign will survive a Republican primary.  Still for me, at this time, from my limited viewpoint, I think Ensign is our best shot at ousting a nativist Senator for their vote on the DREAM Act. 

Orrin Hatch (R-UT): Nativist To Remember in 2012

I personally don't see anything other than a Republican winning a U.S. Senate spot in Utah for some time, but Hatch still needs to be targeted, in my mind for his betrayal of migrant youth.  I would even suggest reaching out to the tea party groups that ousted Senator Bob Bennett (R-UT) and seeing if any common ground can be made, or if any guerrilla tactics can help to oust him for a possibly more pro-migrant Republican Senator. 

It's not likely but it still must be attempted in my mind.  For an original co-sponsor of the DREAM Act to betray you, and then fail to show up for a vote, is inexcusable in my mind and he has to be held accountable.  Finding and developing migrant youth leaders in the Mormon community will be critical to any effort in Utah.  I would love to highlight the stories of Mormon DREAMers going into the 2012 elections. 

Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX): Nativist To Remember in 2012


Kay Bailey Hutchison arguably felt more pressure from DREAMers to vote for the DREAM Act than any other Senator.  The Great Texas Hunger Strike of 2010, where some DREAMers and their allies went up to 40 days without food, was awe inspiring and put an intense amount of pressure on both Hutchison and Senator Jon Cornyn (R-TX).  It forced them to respond to the moral crisis that is our broken immigration system several times.

Texas is a strange beast.  It's one of the largest states in the union, and it has a large Latino population.  In Texas, though, Republicans have been very effective at co-opting pro-migrant vote.  Texas was one of the first states to allow in-state tuition for undocumented youth, for example, and Texas Governor Rick Perry has yet to speak against it.  It's difficult to say whether the large Latino vote can be mobilized against Kay Bailey Hutchison to ensure her defeat in 2012, but there is no reason not to try by highlighting her vote on the DREAM Act. 

Olympia Snowe (R-ME): Nativist To Remember in 2012


Olympia Snowe, along with Susan Collins (R-ME) and Scott Brown is another Senator I organized my guts out for.  I even organized a pray-in in her office when it became clearer and clearer she was going to vote against the DREAM Act to appease the tea party in Maine.  That's right.  Even in Maine, there was civil disobedience for the DREAM Act.

It's a little bit more complicated to organize the pro-migrant vote in Maine because it's one of the whitest states in the union.  The pro-migrant community in Maine as also probably going to be busy preventing an onslaught of nativist legislation from a Republican controlled House and Senate, with a Tea Party Governor happy to sign off on it all, or even lead the way.  

Still, if the electoral climate substantially changes in 2012 I think their might be an opportunity to oust Snowe.  As with Hatch, it might even be worth reaching out to the tea party to see if some common ground can be reached, or some guerrilla tactics can be attempted. 

Jon Tester (D-MT): Nativist to Remember in 2012


Finally, we get to the only Democrat I'm going to highlight among this bunch.  If folks are willing to go to West Virginia or Nebraska to organize pro-migrant white people against Joe Manchin or Ben Nelson in 2012 (I'm not), I'm happy to substitute either of them in here, but I'm putting Tester here because the backlash against him from the progressive "netroots" for his vote against the DREAM Act has already been pretty severe. 

I think our job with Tester is to make sure that no "progressive" supports him going into 2012, and that any progressive who does immediately gets labeled as the nativist they are.  If anyone's willing to go to Montana and organize, more power to you, but I'm going to stick with Massachusetts and Maine, for now.

Conclusion: Get Started Organizing Now

Again these are suggestions from a 24-year-old whose only qualifications, really, are a lot of passion for the DREAM Act, and some access to some really smart people that have been doing this for much longer than I have.  Commentary and critique is always welcome but this is what I got right now.  Bookmark it, get started organizing, and we'll modify this as it gets closer to 2012.  Having gone into the 2010 elections off-gaurd, though, I can't emphasize enough that if we want to hold these folks accountable we've got to start now.  If we aren't ready when these Senators start having primaries, we might as well have given up already, because that's when we can have the most influence.

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by kyledeb published on December 21, 2010 11:00 AM.

How DREAMers Pushed Harry Reid to Victory in 2010, and What this Means for Obama in 2012 was the previous entry in this blog.

Obama: Deporting Immigrants So Republicans Don't Have To is the next entry in this blog.

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