DREAM Act supporters try, fail, to get Hatch's ear
MURRAY • Raymi Gutierrez, dressed in a white graduation gown and mortarboard cap, stood Monday outside the campaign office of Sen. Orrin Hatch trying to hold back the tears.
"I just wanted a few seconds of his time and he couldn't give that," she said, almost sobbing. "But I am thankful he was able to start this."
The 22-year-old student at the University of Utah was talking about the DREAM Act, a piece of federal legislation sponsored by Hatch a decade ago that would grant a path to citizenship for children brought to the United States by undocumented parents.
Gutierrez was joined by about a dozen supporters of the act Monday as they tried to gain an audience with the Utah senator on what they said was the 10th anniversary of Hatch introducing the legislation. The bill was actually introduced on Aug. 1, 2001. The Dream Act supporters showed up at the office during a scheduled open house Hatch was hosting at his campaign headquarters as he continued to ramp up for his re-election bid.
But the students never got to meet Hatch, who circulated through the office shaking hands with supporters but were deftly turned around by campaign manager Dave Hansen to meet other people just before the senator approached the group.
Hansen also said the campaign had "alerted" Murray Police to the planned presence of the Dream Act supporters though he said he wasn't expecting so many police to show up. At any given time, there were at least three patrol cars spotted in the parking lot of the building and at least a half-dozen officers inside.
The police prevented the Dream Act activists from bringing in cupcakes they had made. However, they did serenade the crowd in the office with two renditions of "Happy Birthday" to commemorate the bill's anniversary.
Diego Ibanez, wearing a black graduation gown, said he wasn't surprised they didn't get to meet Hatch.
"I didn't think they'd let us in the building at all," Ibanez said. "But it shouldn't have been that hard for him to see us. Politicians will be politicians."
However, Hatch said he was willing to meet with the them after the open house was over at 6 p.m, but none of the activists took him up on the offer.
Hatch said he remained supportive of the Dream Act though he said other things have to happen first.
"I believe you cannot pass Dream Act legislation until you seal the border," Hatch said.
Hatch had been a reliable, regular supporter as it came up for votes in various forms throughout the years. However, in December, he skipped a vote on the Dream Act in the Senate to attend a grandson's graduation. He said he would've voted against it had he been present.
At the time, he called the vote a cynical ploy by Democrats to curry favor with their base. But the six-term senator, who will likely be facing a Republican challenge possibly from Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah has been taking positions that appeal to the tea party including tougher stances on immigration.
In a meeting with The Salt Lake Tribune editorial board about a month ago, Chaffetz called out Hatch on the issue.
"Look at the DREAM Act. I mean, he sponsored it. Then he said he wasn't going to support it. Then it came up for a vote, and he missed the vote. So everybody's offended," Chaffetz said.
Asked about Chaffetz' criticism, Hatch responded curtly: "I was fixing the border before he was ever elected."