Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) was an original sponsor of the DREAM Act, a bill to help some undocumented young people gain legal status through school or military service. In 2003, he referred to the deportation of students who grew up in the U.S. as a “tremendous loss to our society.” In 2007, he and fellow Utah Sen. Bob Bennett voted to add the act to the defense authorization bill — the same move Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is attempting now.
In 2010, though, Hatch and Bennett’s votes will be different: They said they plan to vote “no” on the DREAM Act next week.
“The American people want the government to secure our borders, create jobs and reduce the deficit.” Hatch said. “Instead, Senate leadership is insisting on ignoring the will of the people and holding our troops hostage by cynically pushing a defense bill chock-full of controversial measures to score cheap political points with its liberal base.”
Why the turnaround? In July, when I wrote about prospects for the DREAM Act, Hatch’s position was hard to pin down. He seemed supportive of the DREAM Act in public statements, telling a town hall of potential DREAM Act beneficiaries, “If they’ve lived good lives, if they’ve done good things, why would we penalize them and not let them at least go to school?”
But his spokeswoman, Antonia Ferrier, was careful at the time to point out that Hatch had not signed on to the current version of the DREAM Act. “He believes that we have to get tough on border security because the American people will have no faith in any immigration legislation until we do that,” she said in an email.
Hatch and Bennett join a growing chorus of Republicans who have spoken out about Reid’s decision to add the DREAM Act to the defense authorization bill. While many have not said they will vote against the defense bill, a few have recently said they plan to block the bill. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said he will block the bill if the DREAM Act and a measure to end Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell are not stripped from the bill.
Reid reportedly hopes to bring the bill up for its first vote on the Senate floor early next Tuesday.