DREAM Act Dies in Senate

The U.S. Senate on Saturday failed to get the necessary super-majority of 60 to force a final vote on legislation that would have provided a path to citizenship for some college students and veterans who do not have legal documentation to reside in the United States.

The vote was a major defeat for advocates for these students, who were backed by many college leaders. But in a state court ruling that would help these students, a Nebraska judge on Friday rejected a suit seeking to prevent that state from letting these students pay in-state tuition rates.

The Senate Vote
In the Senate, supporters were able to get only 55 votes for cloture, and the defeat effectively killed hope of passing the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (or DREAM) Act not only this year but likely in the next two years. While a few Democrats and Republicans crossed party lines on the vote, most Democrats backed the bill and most Republicans opposed the bill. The Congress taking office in January, in which the Republicans will control the House and the Democrats will have a slimmer majority in the Senate than they have now, is unlikely to pass DREAM if the current Congress could not do so.

While support for DREAM was once bipartisan, the Republican leadership lined up against the bill this year. And prominent Senate Republicans like Orrin Hatch of Utah, Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas and John McCain of Arizona — all of whom once backed the legislation — voted to block its consideration.

Republicans made a range of arguments against the bill, with many citing the cost of new citizens to the U.S. government, or raising questions of fairness about letting these students who didn’t enter the country legally gain citizenship. Proponents of DREAM have argued that the legislation would help the economy, in that those students who are gaining an education could get better jobs and pay more in taxes if they had a route to citizenship. And supporters have noted that the students who would benefit were all brought to the United States as children — and that they never made a decision to violate U.S. immigration law and yet frequently have no connections to the countries where they were born.

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