Saturday was bittersweet for civil rights activists. Just moments before the landmark repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, the Dream Act, a bill that would have given young illegal immigrants a path to citizenship, went down in flames.
If passed, The Dream Act would have allowed illegal immigrants who were brought to the US as children, have lived in the country for at least five years, and are either enrolled in college or in the military, a pathway to citizenship. The measure fell just five votes short of the 60 votes needed to move past mostly Republican opposition and become law.
In a statement after the vote, President Obama called the outcome “incredibly disappointing” and blamed the bill’s failure on the GOP.
“A minority of senators prevented the Senate from doing what most Americans understand is best for the country,” Obama said. “There was simply no reason not to pass this important legislation.”
Many immigrants were watching the proceedings at the Capital building on Saturday and were greatly disappointed as the 55-41 vote was announced.
Immigration activists spoke out against the Senate’s inability to pass the bill (the House previously passed it), and vowed to keep fighting. “This is a dark day in America,” said Jorge-Mario Cabrera, a spokesman for the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights in Los Angeles. “The Senate has . . . thrown under the bus the lives and hard work of thousands and thousands of students who love this country like their own home, and, in fact, they have no other home.”
Some feel that the bill’s failure will have a profound effect on upcoming elections, in which the Hispanic vote is becoming increasingly important.
“The echo of this vote will be loud and long,” said Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez of Illinois, “We are at the tipping point that will define the political alignment of the Republican and Democratic parties with Latino voters for a generation.”
Democrats and immigration activists have vowed to keep fighting for the Dream Act. However, with Republicans taking control of the House in January and increasing their numbers in the Senate, passage of this bill does not seem likely anytime soon.