DREAM Act Goes Down in Flames in Senate
An immigration bill that would blaze a trail to legal status for hundreds of thousands of undocumented students went down in flames in the Senate on Saturday, delivering a critical blow to Democrats and Hispanic activists.
Even though the House approved the DREAM Act last week, the Senate fell five votes short of the 60 needed Saturday to advance the bill past Republican opposition.
The DREAM Act, which opponents have decried as a “nightmare,” is now likely to languish for years with Republicans taking back control of the House and picking up an additional handful of seats in the Senate next month.
Both sides, which have fought tooth and nail over the bill — which would give provisional legal status to illegal immigrants brought to the country as children — immediately reacted to Saturday’s vote.
“Now, the next Congress can start to put unemployed Americans back to work by eliminating the ability for illegal aliens to hold jobs and by reducing the number of unnecessary permanent foreign workers we currently bring in legally every month,” said Roy Beck, president and founder of NumbersUSA.
Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, said, “It is deeply disappointing that the Senate today refused to even allow a vote on the bill.”
Many young illegal immigrants had been pressing Congress to pass the bill in public demonstrations, and going public with the fact they are in the country without permission in the hope that their stories would help them claim a legislative victory.
But opponents insisted that the legislation is “backdoor amnesty” that encourages more people to come to the country illegally or overstay their time-limited visas. They also argued it rewards law breakers.
“This bill simply ‘incentivizes’ and rewards more illegality. And, if it passes, what principle would lawmakers cite to object to another amnesty, for another group, and another one after that?” Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, ranking Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee, asked at a news release.
Meanwhile, immigration officers were bracing for the bill’s defeat.
Assistant Homeland Security Secretary John Morton said Friday in a conference call with reporters that immigration officers are unlikely to take extraordinary steps to arrest young people in the country illegally should the bill fail in the Senate.
Immigration officers will continue their focus on immigrants who have committed crimes or are a threat to the public, he said, adding that they will handle cases of non-criminal immigrants on a case-by-case basis.
“Were the DREAM Act not to pass we would handle the situation as we do now,” Morton said. He said the DREAM Act would be “entirely consistent” with the Obama administration’s immigration enforcement policies.
Morton joined Alejandro Mayorkas, director of Citizenship and Immigration Services, and David Aguilar, deputy commissioner of Customs and Border Protection, in endorsing the DREAM Act as good for border security.
Aguilar said the recent slaying in Arizona of a Border Patrol agent emphasizes the need to focus border security on public safety threats. He said about 6 percent to 8 percent of the arrests agents make on the southern border are minors. The workload created when families accompanied by minors enter the country illegally is “tremendous,” Aguilar said.
“Passage of something like this would have a positive effect on our ability to address our nation’s borders,” he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.