President Barack Obama and three Hispanic lawmakers agreed Tuesday to push for a vote this year on the Dream Act, legislation that would provide a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants brought to the U.S. as children.
Passing any legislation would be a big victory for immigration advocates, but the Dream Act is considerably more modest than the comprehensive legislation that advocates have long pushed. Congressional efforts to move immigration legislation have gone nowhere over the last two years, and it’s unclear if even this scaled back measure would have support of 60 senators needed to pass.
One lawmaker at the White House meeting wanted to continue the push for a comprehensive immigration overhaul, which would offer a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants of all ages. Others in the meeting argued that was not realistic, given lack of Republican support for such an sweeping bill, according to one person familiar with the meeting. This person did not say which lawmaker wanted to keep pushing for the broader bill.
"We had a very healthy, vigorous conversation and we reached this wonderful harmony," said Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D., Ill.), who was in the session.
“We have an opportunity to help two million young men and women in this country join the armed forced, go to college,” he added, describing the Dream Act. “We should not jeopardize that opportunity” by pushing for the larger measure.
Sen. Robert Menendez (D., N.J.) and Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D., N.Y.) were also in the Oval Office meeting. The lawmakers and the president “discussed the options on immigration reform immediately facing the Congress,” the White House said in a statement. “The president and the (lawmakers) believe that, before adjourning, Congress should approve the Dream Act.”
The president agreed to make calls to try and get Republican support for the measure, officials said.
But this is hardly a done deal. Democratic aides in the House and Senate said no decisions have been made about bringing the legislation to the floor this year or what form the bill would take.