Rep. Luis Gutíerrez says DREAM Act Delay Could Lead to Latino Revolt

The failure to address immigration reform and, more specifically, the DREAM Act, may backfire miserably on both Republicans and Democrats. Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) filed a motion on Tuesday to vote for closure on the DREAM Act, essentially forcing Congress to bring the debate to an end and put the bill up for a legislative consideration.

But it seems like Reid—who owes his Senate seat to the Latino voters of Nevada that supported him in the midterm election—may have difficulty securing the 60 votes necessary to block a Republican filibuster even if the bill does pass. Democratic Senators Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Mark Pryor of Arkansas have already said they will not vote for closure on the bill, but Republican Senators Dick Lugar of Indiana and Bob Bennett of Utah have indicated they would vote in favor of the DREAM Act.

The tenuous situation has many Latino congressional representatives on edge and threatening to stage massive civil protests if the legislation is not passed. Chicago Democratic Representative Luis Gutierrez bemoaned the missed opportunity to pass immigration reform when Democrats controlled both the House and the Senate, telling The Daily Beast writer Bryan Curtis, “If we couldn’t do it when Democrats were nearly 260 in the House and 59 in the Senate, how do we propose to tell people we can do it now? The opportunity to have gotten it done is gone.” 

Gutierrez, who was named the second most important Latino national leader behind Sonia Sotomayor in a recent Pew Center poll, is now talking about taking the immigration reform movement to a more grassroots level, akin to the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. “When black people in this country decided they were going to fight for civil rights and for voting rights, they didn't ask if the majority leader was with them and when they were going to tee up the bill," he explains. "They said, ‘We’re sitting where we need to sit on the bus! We’re integrating this counter! We’re going to march!' ” 

This bill could help thousands of young people and enrich not only our colleges and universities, but also our military forces. The DREAM Act seems like a win-win; it is a piece of bipartisan legislation supported by the president, leading conservatives, the majority of Democrats and the public. If Republicans manage to block the passage of the DREAM Act (with the rallying cry that the midterm elections gave them a mandate to focus only on fiscal policies) we may see a revolt among Latino politicians and the community alike.