DREAM Act Goes Down to Defeat

‘Twas the week before Christmas, and all through the House… or, make that the Senate…  In any case, the Grinch stole Christmas from the small army of immigrant rights activists who had hoped the DREAM Act would be among the presents left by a beneficent Congress, before high-tailing it out of town at the end of the session.

Last Saturday, amid a flurry of end-of-session activity, the Senate finally voted on the DREAM Act, which had passed the House only days before. In the event, the DREAM Act fell short of the 60 votes it needed to reach the floor for debate, garnering 55 votes for, with 41 senators against. (See Immigration Vote Leaves Obama’s Policy in Disarray, by Julia Preston, New York Times, 18.Dec.2010.)

The measure would have created a conditional permanent resident status for millions of illegal immigrants who entered the United States as children, and who have lived here for several years, if they agreed to serve in the military or go to college. Proponents said the DREAM Act was a matter of basic fairness, to allow people who were brought here through no fault of their own to get an education or serve their adopted country in the military, and thereby get a chance to stay here.

Opponents painted the measure as a backdoor amnesty, one that might open the gates to a broader amnesty in the future. Expect to hear these same arguments in the 112th Congress, but with a new sharpness and urgency. On the right side of the spectrum, immigration restriction will be portrayed as an essential national security measure, necessary to protect the country from terrorists, according to a CBS News commentator. (See Get Ready for the Congressional ‘Terrorama: With Politics in the Air, the Next Congress Will See Terror in Everything,’ by Stephen Salisbury, CBS News, 15.Dec.2010.) Meanwhile, those on the left will be asking – rather pointedly – what happens to a DREAM deferred?

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