Commentary: The promise of the DREAM Act

What does a defense authorization bill have to do with allowing undocumented young people to earn legal status in the United States?

Many Republicans are asking that question. They point to another measure they also view as controversial: lifting the "don't ask, don't tell" military policy for gay recruits, also an amendment to the defense budget legislation.

The Dream Act, which Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has promised to include as part of the Defense Department's authorization, has enjoyed bipartisan support for years, but never gained traction because of promises that it would be rolled into a major immigration reform. In 2007, a divided Senate pulled back its support for comprehensive immigration, and Mr. Reid dropped it.

Now that the Democratic senator from Nevada faces a tough reelection battle in a state with a growing immigrant population he has promised to get a vote yea or nay as early as Tuesday. Predictably, Republicans are crying foul, and several Democrats from Southern or Midwestern states also are on the fence, worried that even the common sense approach of the Dream Act will quash their re-election chances back home.

What a sad state of affairs. Stuck between the opportunism of election-year politics and the promise of the Dream Act are young people looking for senators to make the tough decisions.

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