This past Wednesday quite likely marked the end of any possibility for meaningful immigration debate in Congress until a new president is elected.
That summation comes from U.S. Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin, a Democrat from Illinois and sponsor of the DREAM Act, which was defeated 52-44 in the U.S. Senate on Wednesday.
This marks the second time in six months the DREAM Act has failed to attract the number of votes necessary to take it out of the Senate.
The DREAM Act would create a path toward citizenship for undocumented high school graduates who enter college or the military. DREAM Act beneficiaries would have had to enter the U.S. before they turned 16 years old, and be of “good moral character.” The bill also would allow these students to receive financial aid, such as in-state tuition, like their documented peers.
Led by Durbin, the Democrats have supported the bill, in various forms, since its inception in 2001. College grads and military personnel make a positive financial contribution to society, they say, rather than a negative one. The DREAM Act would help reduce dropout rates and begin to create a legal workforce.
“When I hear some describe this bill as amnesty, I wonder, if someone is willing to risk his or her life to serve in our military in a combat zone, is that a giveaway?,” Durbin said in a statement this week. “We can allow a generation of immigrant students with great potential and ambitions to be contribute more fully to our society and national security, or we can relegate them to a future in the shadows, which would be a loss for all Americans.”
Republicans, for the most part, say the bill doles out amnesty to undeserving lawbreakers, despite the fact that many undocumented students were carried across the border as infants, toddlers and young children.
Count Rep. Tom Tancredo among those amnesty-fixated Republicans. And recall that it was the Littleton Republican who, in 2002, attempted to have Jesus Apodaca, a model Aurora high school student, deported after Apodaca was interviewed The Denver Post about his inability to enroll into college due to his immigration status. (It didn’t work. In fact, former Sen. Ben Nighthorse Campbell introduced federal legislation to grant Apodaca’s entire family citizenship after Tancredo’s attack.)
Five years later, Tancredo hasn’t learned many new moves. When Durbin announced a news conference in support of the DREAM Act, Tancredo demanded that ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) raid the conference and “detain any illegal aliens” who might happen to be there.
“Just because these illegal aliens are being used for political gain doesn’t mean they get immunity from the law,” he said in a statement.
Meanwhile in Tancredo’s home state, high school and college students took a bit more proactive approach. Hundreds marched through the streets of Denver, carrying pro-DREAM Act signs, to Sen. Ken Salazar’s office to praise his support of the bill. Even after they learned that the bill had defeated, they remained hopeful and promised to continue the fight for education access.
Back in the Beltway, Tancredo’s fire drill wasn’t high on the priority list at ICE; no immigration officials showed at Durbin’s press conference.
“[Tancredo’s] hatred for people who are immigrants is boundless.”