DREAM Act frozen by lack of super majority in U.S. Senate
Washington, D.C. — The DREAM Act had everything going for it. Almost.
The bill supporting college and military prospects for the brightest and bravest among America’s undocumented youth had the support of educators. It had the support of military leaders. It had the support of religious leaders. It had the support of civil rights activists. It had the support of the country’s public (54 percent to 42 percent in a Gallup Poll.).
It had the support of President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. It had the support of Obama’s cabinet members. It had the support of the U.S. House of Representatives (216 to 198). It had the support of the U.S. Senate (55 to 41).
The DREAM Act lacked only one thing. It lacked sufficient backing in the Senate to block a threatened Republican filibuster — an unlimited flow of speeches that in the past has reduced its users to reading names from telephone directories. The bill needed a “super majority” — 60 Senators — to block such a filibuster.
For the lack of five votes — seven days before Christmas — access to colleges was denied to thousands on Saturday. For the lack of five votes thousands of young people who have known only one country — the United States of America — will be denied a path to citizenship.
The DREAM Act, technically known as the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, has faced a rocky road in Congress over the last four years.
A testy Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), speaking before the vote was taken, said, “To those who have come to my office — you’re always welcome to come, but you’re wasting your time. We’re not going to pass the Dream Act or any other legalization program until we secure our borders. It will never be done as a stand-alone. It has to be part of comprehensive immigration reform. There’s a war waging in Mexico that is compromising our security.”
Although disappointed, Francisco López took an upbeat attitude. “Now that the federal government has failed to address the future of those immigrant youth whose lives are still in limbo, CAUSA will work at the state level to pass Tuition Equity legislation.” López is executive director of CAUSA, an Oregon-based immigrant rights coalition. He added, “Because building a movement and the power to win humane and just policy is a long term task, it is not a matter of if we win, but a matter of when.”
Anticipating the Senate’s rejection, Rebecca Shine sized up the situation. “The DREAMers have changed history and hearts and minds across the nation. They did all this. No one handed any of this to them. They took great risks and showed great courage and we allies need to continue with them because with or without the DREAM Act there is lots more work to do for all immigrants, many who will not be eligible under this act. Whether the DREAM Act passes this time, and I desperately hope that it does, these young leaders have already made our country better and have brought out the best in their peers and their allies. And there are always those few who dig in the heels against change even when it is clear it will come one way or another and history will not look back kindly on them. But the DREAMers, well, students in years to come will read about this youth movement and take pride in being from a country where this could happen.”
Shine, who works with Graham Street Productions, created the documentary “Papers,” which chronicles the struggles of undocumented youths.
At the U.S. Capitol later in the afternoon, when an unrelated bill — the repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” bill — passed a 63 to 33 cloture vote. This virtually guaranteed that sexual minorities in the U.S. armed forces will be accorded the same privileges as religious minorities. Gays and Lesbians need no longer fear being cashiered for their sexual preferences.
Some irony took place while the roll call vote on the DREAM Act when three Republican senators — Robert Bennett (UT), Richard Lugar (IN), and Lisa Murkowski (AK) — voted in favor of cloture, while five Democrats voted against. The five Democrats included Max Baucus (MT), Kay Hagan (NC), Ben Nelson (NE), Mark Pryor (AR), and Jon Tester (MT).
Both of Oregon’s senators, Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley voted for the bill.
Not voting were Jim Bunning (R-KY), Judd Gregg (R-NH), Orrin Hatch (R-UT), and Joe Manchin (D-WV).
Photo Julie Cortez
Young people march in support of the DREAM Act in downtown Portland on Dec. 8.
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