Three Senate candidates in the Southwest are calling on delegates to the Democratic National Convention to formally support the DREAM Act, a proposal that would allow many young undocumented immigrants to gain citizenship. Rep. Martin Heinrich, the Democratic nominee for a Senate seat from New Mexico, said that “the time has come for the DREAM Act to be a part of our identity as a party.” By supporting the bill, Heinrich and others hope to appeal to Latino voters, and give Americans a clear choice on the issue of immigration.Although the Homeland Security Department has stopped deporting many young undocumented immigrants under deferred action, the new program does not provide a path to citizenship. The DREAM Act, in contrast, would give young illegal immigrants enrolled in college or serving in the military the opportunity to become U.S. citizens.
The Democratic-led House approved the DREAM Act in December 2010, but Republicans subsequently blocked it in the Senate. Obama has supported the bill as a part of his larger immigration reform efforts, although it has not been approved in either the House or the Senate since.
Democratic officials recognize the importance of the Latino vote in key battleground states including New Mexico, Arizona, and Nevada. A Pew Hispanic Center survey conducted in late 2011 found that more than 9 in 10 Hispanics support the DREAM Act, highlighting its potential influence if included in the Democratic platform. According to Melanie Rousell, spokeswoman for the DNC, “The platform process is ongoing, but the president and Democrats support the DREAM Act and are committed to taking steps toward passing it.”