Thousands of young people across America who had hoped to become U.S. citizens through an amendment to a pending defense spending bill were let down after it was recently blocked by the Senate.
According to the Associated Press, the Senate Sept.21 voted down the defense bill that had the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act attached as an amendment. The vote was 56-43, with no Republicans voting in favor of the bill, four votes shy of the needed 60 votes. .
“I was kind of speechless. It’s something that hurt, but we are not stopping. They only gave us a chance and more time to get even bigger,” Diana Banderas, a recent high school graduate told the AP.
The DREAM Act, which allows young people to become legal U.S. residents after serving two years in college or the military, was attached to a military spending bill. Another amendment would have advanced a repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. But Republicans said that the two measures weren’t related to defense and didn’t need to be included in the bill.
The DREAM measure was originally introduced in 2009 by Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin (D). He told NBC Chicago that he will continue to fight and bring it back for another vote.
“Where is the justice in this decision? At least have the courage to let us bring this matter to the floor and stand up and vote ‘No,’ But to hide behind this procedural ruse—this unanimous consent request—is totally unfair,” he said from the floor of the Senate.
Had the measure passed, it would have granted citizenship to thousands of youths who settled in the U.S. illegally when they were younger than 15 and who had been here for at least five years. Those seeking citizenship also would have had to been high school graduates.
Opponents of the measure claim that it is a form of immigration amnesty and would have cost too much.
“The political gridlock that has immobilized the Senate has resulted once again in a lost opportunity for the American people,” Mary Giovagnoli, the director of the Immigration Policy Center said in a statement. “By refusing to allow the Defense Authorization Act to proceed, America will not see, at this time, an up or down vote on the DREAM Act, which would have been a first legislative step in resolving our immigration crisis.”