The DREAM Act, a measure aimed at providing grown children of illegal immigrants a path to American citizenship, stalled in the Senate on Dec. 9 after Democrats failed to muster the 60 votes needed to avoid a GOP filibuster.
As a result, Senate Democrats conceded that they did not have the votes to pass the act, and voted to pull the measure from consideration.
The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, which passed the House on Dec. 8 by a 216-198 vote, would have created a path to citizenship for about 65,000 immigrant youth through college or military service.
The act floundered in the midst of Congress’ lame duck session. When the new Congress convenes in January, Republicans will control the House of Representatives where the bill, if reintroduced, would encounter a rocky road to passage. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) nevertheless promised constituents that he’d bring the measure back to the Senate floor in the new Congressional session where Democrats will still hold a narrow majority.
The failure of the bill is the latest setback in Congress’ highly politicized efforts to resolve issues related to illegal immigration. Republican leaders claimed the act was a form of “amnesty” for those in the U.S. unlawfully, that the bill is too costly to taxpayers and that it would only serve to invite more illegal border crossings.
The bill would have applied to immigrants who illegally entered the country as children under the age of 16, and who have lived in the country for at least five years. Individuals would have been granted a six-year conditional citizenship status by obtaining a high school diploma and demonstrating “good moral character,” among other requirements according to CNN.
Those individuals would then be required to attend college or serve in the military for at least two years, and pass criminal background checks, before becoming eligible for full citizenship.
According to The Huffington Post, Lucy Martinez, a 19-year-old University of Texas student, watched from her wheelchair as the Senate vote of 59-40 tabled the bill.
Martinez said she was on a 30-day hunger strike along with other supporters of the DREAM Act, and said her hunger strike was aimed at Texas Republican Senator Kay Hutchison, a one-time supporter of the act.
“My target was Sen. Hutchison,” Martinez told the online publication. “I did this for her, to show her how committed Dreamers are to this movement. I don’t know what is going to happen.”
But Hutchison, in statements to The Dallas Morning News, said she would not support the legislation brought before the Senate “because it expands the scope of the bill beyond the intended individuals who were brought here as children and grew up and were educated in the United States.”