The weeks of rallies, hunger strikes and sit-ins and the thousands of phone calls placed to Senate offices didn’t pay off for immigration activists.
The decade-old DREAM Act once again failed to break a filibuster in the Senate on Saturday morning, effectively killing the bill this year and shutting the door on what perhaps was the last chance for pro-immigration reform legislation until at least the 2012 election.
Senate Democrats came up five votes short of the 60 needed to advance the House-passed bill, which would provide a path to citizenship for up to illegal immigrants brought to the country as children if they attend college or join the military for two years. The 55-41 vote was mostly along party lines, though a handful of Democrats — perhaps fearful of their 2012 election outlook — also voted against the DREAM Act.
This latest vote really didn't have a chance in the current political climate, which has moved decidedly against liberalizing immigration laws in recent years.
The DREAM Act’s defeat was a resounding victory for conservatives who have denounced the bill as a mass amnesty plan, and a blow for top Senate Democrats and the Obama administration who enlisted a half dozen cabinet secretaries to lobby undecided lawmakers and embark on a media blitz, highlighting that the bill would send more people to college, boost military recruitment and help the economy.
“This bill is a law that at its fundamental core is a reward for illegal activity,” said Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) on the floor an hour before the vote. “It’s the third time we’ve tried to schedule a vote on it during this lame-duck session. It’s the fifth version of this legislation that has been introduced in the past five months.”
In the final minutes before the vote, Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin pleaded with his colleagues from the floor to vote for the DREAM Act — or as he described it, an act of "political courage."
“Many of you have told me that you’re lying awake at night, tossing and turning over this vote, because you know how hard it’s going to be politically, that some people will use it against you,” Durbin said. “But I might say, if you can summon the courage to vote for the DREAM Act today, you will join ranks with senators before you, who came to the floor of these United States and made history with their courage. Who stood up and said the cause of justice is worth the political risk.”
After years of Congress failing to deal with the nation’s 11 million illegal immigrants, Hispanic leaders and immigration activists expressed frustration at the vote, vowing to target senators who cast no votes in 2012 and future elections.
For the lawmakers who voted against the bill, “it will be a defining vote in their career,” said Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice, an immigrant advocacy group which has been fighting for the DREAM Act.
“They’re standing at the schoolhouse door, saying no to the best and the brightest of the Latino immigrant community,” he said, “and they will have a lot of explaining to do if they run for reelection or aspire to higher office.”
Click to view image: 'Pic 1'
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