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Senators Who Could Still Go Either Way on the DREAM Act

This post was originally published by Campus Progress.

Both chambers of Congress are expected to vote on the DREAM Act this week (follow the most recent developments here). The Senate is going to be a real challenge, since all 42 Republican Senators signed a letter last week, in which they vowed to filibuster all bills until Congress deals with extending tax cuts and reducing government spending.

Meanwhile, Harry Reid recently introduced the most restrictive version of the DREAM act to date. Under S. 3992, the new version of the bill, fewer undocumented youth would qualify for a path to citizenship: Only those who came to the United States before age 16 and have been here for 5 years, but are still under the age of 30. This version also extends the period of conditional residency to 10 years, up from 6 years. You can read the full text of the bill here.

The DREAM Act has come before Congress multiple times in different forms since 2001, and has generally stalled in one of the chambers of Congress. It fell shy of the 60 votes needed in the Senate in 2007. When the Senate attempted to attach it to a defense spending bill this fall, it also failed to get 60 votes.

Ironically, the DREAM Act initially began as a Republican proposal when Sen. Orrin Hatch brought it forward in 2001, but now many Republicans who previously supported the bill (including Hatch) have come to oppose it.

There are still a handful of Senators on the fence on both sides of the aisle:

Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.)

Sam Brownback
Source: Office of Sen. Brownback

Sen. Sam Brownback has voted “Yes” for the DREAM Act, a number of times in the past, and cosponsored it in 2007. Brownback is leaving the Senate to take on Kansas' governorship next year, and like many past Republican co-sponsors this year, he's facing pressure to show a tough-on-illegal-immigration stance.

In Washington: (202) 224-6521; other numbers.

 

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine)

Susan Collins
Source: Office of Sen. Susan Collins

Sen. Susan Collins is, as Newsweek recently put it, one of “the last moderates left standing” in the GOP, along with Snowe. She’s coming under a lot of pressure to shift rightward. In September, when Reid introduced the DREAM Act as a potential amendment to the defense authorization bill, Collins voted against Reid’s amendment package. She took issue with his proposed three-amendment limit, but didn't denounce the DREAM Act on principle. She voted for the DREAM Act in 2007.

In Washington: (202) 224-2523; other numbers.

 

 

Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.)

Kay hagan
Source: Office of Sen. Hagan

Sen. Kay Hagan “supports comprehensive immigration reform but opposes the DREAM Act,” saying the US needs to secure its borders first. She assumed office in 2009, so we haven’t gotten a chance to see how she voted on the DREAM Act as a stand alone bill in the past.

In Washington: 202-224-6342; toll free: 1-877-852-9462

 

 

 

Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.)

Richard Lugar
Source: Office of Sen. Lugar

The Hill reports Sen. Richard Lugar is on the fence on the DREAM Act. He’s supported it in the past, but it’s not clear how he feels about the new revised version.

In Washington: (202) 224-4814; other numbers.

 

 

 

 

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.)

John McCain
Source: Office of Sen. McCain

Sen. John McCain is another former co-sponsor of the bill who’s been talking tougher on immigration to survive a rough election season.  Before this year, he actively promoted the DREAM Act a number of times—Colorlines made an interactive chart of his changing stance on immigration. A spokesperson for his office has said he now opposes the bill, but people on the right still seem worried he’ll change his mind. He seemed surprisingly sympathetic to DREAMers when he spoke with some of them earlier this year, thanking them for their advocacy; more recently, he’s avoided confronting them. This week, DREAM activists have been holding hunger strikes in front of his office—they could use some support.

In Washington: (202) 224-2235; other numbers.

 

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.)

Claire McCaskill
Source: Office of Sen. McCaskill

Sen. Claire McCaskill voted against the DREAM Act in 2007, but she hinted at a change of heart during a speech in 2009. McCaskill has a track record of being against comprehensive immigration reform and guest worker programs.

In Washington: 202-224-6154; other numbers.

 

 

 

 

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia)


Source: Flickr / studio08denver

Recently elected Sen. Joe Manchin, who is the replacement for the late Robert Byrd, told Politico that he hasn’t taken a position on the DREAM Act after Harry Reid rolled out the new, more restrictive version of the bill on Monday. Manchin is known for being on the more conservative side of the party spectrum, and he might be tempted to set himself apart from Obama’s agenda after fighting against a tide of anti-Obama sentiment in his own Senate race.

In Washington: 202-224-3954, In Charleston: 304-342-5855

 

 

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) & Sen. John Eric Ensign (R-Nev.)

Lisa Murkowski
Source: Office of Sen. Murkowski
John Ensign
Source: Office of Sen. Ensign

Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Sen. John Eric Ensign haven’t declared their positions on the DREAM Act. Murkowski has shown some support for guest worker programs in the past. Both Murkowski and Ensign voted against the DREAM Act in 2007.

Murkowski: In Washington: 202-224-6665; other numbers

Ensign: In Washington: (202) 224-6244; other numbers.

 

 

Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine)

Olympia Snowe
Office of Sen. Snowe

Sen. Olympia Snowe voted to continue with debate on the DREAM Act in 2007, though she voted against the DREAM Act becoming an amendment of the Department of Defense authorization bill earlier this fall. She has been in favor of creating more avenues for legal immigration in the past, voting “yes” on comprehensive immigration reform in 2007. She voted to create a guest worker program and allow more farm workers to immigrate legally to the US in 2006.

She’s also been able to let common sense override her party's pressure in the past, voting to kill an amendment that would deny funds to “sanctuary cities” in 2008—cities that do not pursue immigration enforcement with municipal funds, and that don’t penalize undocumented residents for reporting crimes to the police.

In Washington: (202) 224-5344; other numbers.

 

Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio)

Voinovich
Source: Office of Sen. Voinovich

Sen. George Voinovich is retiring soon, and DREAM Act advocates are hoping that means he’ll be in a position to vote his conscience without worrying too much about the political consequences. He has a mixed record on immigration that makes him something of a wild card: He voted yes on allowing undocumented immigrants to participate in Social Security in 2006, but voted against comprehensive immigration reform in 2007. He voted “no” for the DREAM Act in 2007 as well.

In Washington: (202) 224-3353; other numbers.

Braden Goyette is a staff writer for Campus Progress.

 
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