Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said today he is planning to attach an immigration reform measure that would help undocumented students to the Defense authorization bill slated to hit the Senate floor next week, CBS News Capitol Hill producer John Nolen reports.
The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act would provide a pathway to citizenship for undocumented young people who came to the United States as minors and attended college or joined the military. Reid said a vote on the bill is long overdue.
"We are going to match our policy with our principles and finally say that in our country everyone who steps up to serve our country should be welcomed," Reid told reporters today. "If they go into the military, serve for two years, they can get a green card. That's what the DREAM Act is all about."
The Defense Authorization bill will also, which prohibits gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military.
Reid, who faces a tough re-election campaign in Nevada, has beenon both "don't ask, don't tell" and the DREAM Act by liberals dissatisfied with the lack of action on those two fronts.
Putting the DREAM Act up for a vote highlights the distinctions between Reid and his Republican opponent, Sharron Angle, on the issue of immigration reform. Angle is opposed to the measure and has associated it with "amnesty" for undocumented immigrants.
Angle has nonetheless been courting Hispanics, who make up 26 percent of Nevada's population and accounted for 15 percent of the electorate in 2008, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Angle's campaign told the Associated Press it is seeking out Hispanic endorsements and has plans to air ads in Spanish.
With polls showing Reid running neck-and-neck with Angle, the Hispanic vote could be critical for him. Earlier this year, Reid told Hispanic activists that there would be "no excuses" if he failed to deliver comprehensive immigration reform this year. With no hope left for comprehensive reform this year, the DREAM Act could be Reid's best opportunity to deliver for Hispanic activists.
Reid and Angle have aggressively attacked each other over their respective efforts to win Hispanic votes. After Angle told the AP she would run Spanish ads, the Reid campaign pointed out that in 2006 she opposed having election materials available in Spanish. Meanwhile,for racial insensitivity last month after Reid said, "I don't know how anyone of Hispanic heritage could be a Republican."
Reid would not say today, as the AP notes, whether he had the votes to pass the DREAM Act.
Stephanie Condon is a political reporter for CBSNews.com. You can read more of her posts here. Follow Hotsheet on Facebook and Twitter.