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Cornyn vote helps end dream - Dallas Morning News, The (TX) - October

28, 2007 - page 9A


October 28, 2007 | Dallas Morning News, The (TX) | TODD J. GILLMAN | Page 9A

WASHINGT ON - T he dream died last week, and Sen. John Cornyn helped to kill it: legislation that
would grant legal status to students whose parents brought them to this country without visas.

T he T exas senator had long supported the idea behind the so-called DREAM Act. T his time,
though, he argued that it's better to hold out for an immigration overhaul - however hopeless that
seems - because cherry-picking its most popular elements makes it even harder to cobble
together support for a broader deal.

"T his is a hot hot-button issue that divides our country," he said. "I don't think the solution is to do
piecemeal legislation that solves one group's problems at the expense of a comprehensive bill."

His Democratic challenger accused him of flip-flopping on the DREAM Act, and immigration policy
analysts and lobbyists agreed that Mr. Cornyn's hard line of late seems to have a strong political
dimension.

"Long term, it's hard to argue that being seen as anti-immigrant is going to be helpful to the
Republican Party," said John Gay, co-chairman of the business-backed Essential Worker
Immigration Coalition and an executive at the National Restaurant Association. "But when you're
up [for re-election] in 15 months, that's as far as the horizon goes."

T he Cornyn stance contrasted with that of senior T exas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison. She backed the
DREAM Act and was working with the Democratic author, Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, on tweaks
meant to broaden its appeal.

Mr. Cornyn complained that the bill would let criminals seek legalized status, and didn't set
graduation from college as a requirement, only attendance. T he fact that Democrats blocked
amendments showed they were only trying to score political points, he said.

T wo senators. Same state, same party, same constituents.

"T hey have different sensibilities and different ambitions," said Jim Henson, director of the T exas
Politics Project at the University of T exas at Austin. "You run on different sets of issues when you
run for governor vs. when you run for Senate. ... He is by nature a more conservative guy on those
issues than Hutchison, and he probably is thinking about shoring up his base for his upcoming
race."

Ms. Hutchison won another term last year and won't be on the ballot again until at least 2010,
when she may run for governor.
Besides, with the president's popularity so low - the chattering class in Washington was atwitter
last week at a poll showing Americans more likely to believe in ghosts than to believe President
Bush is doing a good job - there's no penalty for bucking the White House these days.

"It gets easier and easier and easier to break with the president every day," Mr. Henson said.

For most of his first term, Mr. Cornyn was an outspoken advocate of a "comprehensive" plan
wedding a guest worker program with interior enforcement and heightened border security. But
with the GOP base unhappy at the guest worker plan, and allegations that it provided "amnesty" for
millions of illegal immigrants, he shunned the deal. Both he and Ms. Hutchison voted to shelve it in
June.

Since then, Mr. Cornyn has dug into a security-first stance.

State Rep. Rick Noriega accused him of being disingenuous in claiming he opposed the DREAM Act
because he wants to include it in a broader reform bill.

T he Houston lawmaker last week became Mr. Cornyn's sole Democratic challenger, after San
Antonio lawyer Mikal Watts dropped out. Mr. Noriega touts his support of a state version of the
DREAM Act, asserting it has helped 10,000 children living in T exas stay in school. He accused Mr.
Cornyn of flip-flopping to "exploit the education of Hispanic children" for political advantage.

"What we've seen is that he feels he has to pay homage to an ideological fringe," he said.

T he death of the DREAM Act forebodes slim chances for other reforms before the new president
and Congress take office in 2009.

"Hope springs eternal, but it looks worse and worse," said Mr. Gay.

He noted that most senators supported the DREAM Act, even though it fell short of the 60-vote
supermajority needed.

"Yes, it's amnesty," he said. "It's amnesty for people whose parents committed a crime -
forgiveness for the sins of the father. It just shows you where we are."
Copyrig ht 2007 The Dallas Morning News