WASHINGTON – A week after the House of Representatives voted to give illegal immigrants brought to the United States as children a way to legalize their stay, the Senate slammed the door on them on grounds the measure would amount to an amnesty for lawbreakers.
The so-called “DREAM Act” officially known as the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act passed the Democratic-controlled House with a bipartisan majority of 216 to 198 earlier this month but failed to gain the 60 votes necessary to overcome opposition in the 100-member Senate.
President Barack Obama said passage of the bill was necessary for America’s economic competitiveness, military readiness and law enforcement efforts.
“It is disappointing that common sense did not prevail today,” Obama said in a statement.
“But my administration will not give up on the DREAM Act, or on the important business of fixing our broken immigration system.”
The National Federation of Filipino American Associations said the Senate action could result in the deportation of hundreds of Filipino students.
First introduced in 2001, the bipartisan measure offers a way to legal residency for illegal immigrants brought to the US before the age of 16, if they meet certain conditions.
They must have lived in the US for at least five years, graduated from high school and they must enter college or the military.
Opponents of the bill said it would simply provide amnesty for people who broke the law when they sneaked into the country, primarily from Mexico without documents or those who overstayed their visas.
But supporters of the bill said children should not be held liable for their fathers’ mistakes.
Democrats will cede control of the House to the Republicans in the new 112th Congress, which begins its session in January, and the struggle to pass an immigration reform bill will begin anew.
Leaders of both parties agree on the need for a comprehensive immigration reform but bicker on how to get this done.
By some estimates, as many as two million of about 11 million undocumented immigrants, mostly Hispanics, could benefit from the DREAM Act.
Among the undocumented are between 200,000 and 300,000 overstaying Filipinos.