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The DREAM Act and Latino Voters

Leading up to yesterday’s defense authorization bill vote, it seemed unlikely that Republicans would allow the bill to go forward with the DREAM Act attached. And, indeed, Republicans filibustered the bill, killing the act’s chances for the immediate future.

So why did Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) push the vote? The main answer, according to some observers, is politics: Democratic leaders are focusing their efforts on issues that will galvanize voters rather than choosing bills that have a chance at success. This may be particularly true with the DREAM Act, an issue that could have an impact on how some Latinos vote. Reid has worked to ensure Latino voters will choose him over Republican opponent Sharron Angle this November, telling a crowd in August, “I don’t know how anyone of Hispanic heritage could be a Republican.” Although a majority of Latinos identify as Democrats, many may be disappointed by failures on immigration reform. According to a July poll, 65 percent of Latino voters want to see immigration reform this year.

The Christian Science Monitor has more on how recent events with the DREAM Act might play out among Nevada’s Latino voters:

Hispanics make up 26 percent of Nevada’s population. (In 2008, they accounted for about 15 percent of the electorate.) In his neck-and-neck battle with “tea-party” favorite Sharron Angle, the majority leader needs every vote he can get, and he’s counting on a big positive response from Hispanics for pushing a bill that is popular with them. [...]

Reid’s more recent move on the DREAM Act, of course, could also anger some independent voters enough to push them into Ms. Angle’s camp – something she is counting on. (The DREAM Act would grant legal status to immigrants younger than 36 who arrived in the US as children, have lived here for five years, and are currently either in college or serving in the military.)

Of course, there’s also the possibility that failure to pass the DREAM Act could backfire for Democrats. Leaders in the Spanish-language media have spoken out against President Barack Obama’s inaction on immigration reform, and between 25 percent and 33 percent of Latino voters who want reform said they would stay home from the polls in November if Congress does not enact some type of immigration reform.

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