Legislation would give them a chance at legal status
By Julie Hirschfeld Davis
Dec. 8, 2010
WASHINGTON — The House passed legislation Wednesday to give hundreds of thousands of foreign-born youngsters brought to the country illegally a shot at legal status, a fleeting victory for an effort that appears doomed in the Senate.
The so-called Dream Act, which passed the House 216-198, has been viewed by Hispanic activists and immigrant advocates as a downpayment on what they had hoped would be broader action by President Barack Obama and the Democratic-controlled Congress to give the nation’s 10 million to 12 million undocumented immigrants a chance to gain legal status.
Critics railed against the measure, calling it a backdoor grant of amnesty that would encourage more foreigners to sneak into the United States in hopes of being legalized eventually.
The Senate is expected Thursday to vote on whether to advance similar legislation, but it’s unlikely Democrats can muster the 60 votes needed to advance it past opposition by Republicans and a handful of their own members. …
With the GOP taking control of the House and representing a stronger minority in the Senate next year, failure to enact the legislation by year’s end dims the prospects for action by Congress to grant a path toward legalization for the nation’s millions of undocumented immigrants. …
Obama’s drive to enact the legislation and congressional Democrats’ determination to vote on it before year’s end reflect the party’s efforts to satisfy Hispanic groups whose backing has been critical in elections and will be again in 2012.
The legislation would give hundreds of thousands of young illegal immigrants brought to the United States before the age of 16, and who have been here for five years and graduated from high school or gained an equivalency degree, a chance to gain legal status if they joined the military or attended college. …
Just eight Republicans joined Democrats to back the bill, while more than three dozen Democrats broke with their party to vote against it.
For undocumented students, a dream deferred (NBC Nightly News, Dec. 8, 2010) – Democrats in Congress are struggling to pass the so-called Dream Act, which would give young undocumented immigrants in college or in the military a path to legal citizenship. NBC’s George Lewis reports. (02:26)
DREAM Act punted, faces uphill battle in Senate
(NBC News “First Read,” Dec. 9, 2010)
By Julia Preston
December 19, 2010
The vote by the Senate on Saturday to block a bill to grant legal status to hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrant students was a painful setback to an emerging movement of immigrants and also appeared to leave the immigration policy of the Obama administration, which has supported the bill and the movement, in disarray.
The bill, known as the Dream Act, gained 55 votes in favor with 41 against, a tally short of the 60 votes needed to bring it to the floor for debate. Five Democrats broke ranks to vote against the bill, while only three Republicans voted for it. The defeat in the Senate came after the House of Representatives passed the bill last week.
The result, although not unexpected, was still a rebuff to President Obama by newly empowered Republicans in Congress on an issue he has called one of his priorities. …
His administration has pursued a two-sided policy, coupling tough enforcement — producing a record number of about 390,000 deportations this year — with an effort to pass the overhaul, which would open a path to legal status for an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants. Now, with less hope for any legalization measures once Republicans take over the House in January, the administration is left with just the stick.
Part of the administration’s strategy has been to ramp up border and workplace enforcement to attract Republican votes for the overhaul. The vote on Saturday made it clear that strategy has not succeeded so far.
Mr. Obama will now face growing pressure from immigrant and Latino groups to temper the crackdown and perhaps find ways to use executive powers to bring some illegal immigrants out of the shadows. Latino voters turned out in strength for the Democrats in the midterm elections, arguably saving their majority in the Senate.
The Republicans in the new Congress are especially keen on tough enforcement. The presumed incoming chairman of the House Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on immigration is Representative Steve King of Iowa, a vigorous opponent of legalization measures, which he rejects as amnesty for lawbreakers. Representative Lamar Smith of Texas, who will be chairman of the Judiciary Committee, is also an outspoken and well-versed opponent of such proposals.
Groups favoring reduced immigration cheered Saturday’s vote as a watershed victory marking the end of a period when they have been on the defensive. Roy Beck, president of NumbersUSA, which lobbied hard against the bill, said the new Congress “has the strongest pro-enforcement membership” in at least 15 years. …
During the last year, administration officials considered proposals to allow immigration authorities to use administrative powers to halt deportations of illegal immigrants who might have been eligible for legal status under the student bill. They also sought ways to ease deportations for other illegal immigrants with no criminal record.
Republican lawmakers criticized those proposals as “backdoor amnesty” and pledged to stop the administration from carrying them out. …
Despite the defeat, Democrats who supported the bill said they would continue to push for it. …
Yet much pressure on the administration may come from immigrant organizations. Despite their illegal status, several hundred immigrant students watched the vote in the Senate gallery. …
The movement has been driven by thousands of students who “came out” to reveal that they did not have legal status, and to recount their academic achievements and the barriers they faced. Now that their status is public, they have nowhere to hide. Meanwhile, an estimated 65,000 illegal immigrants are graduating from high school each year.
“We have woken up,” said Carlos Saavedra, national coordinator of the United We Dream Network, a student group. “We are going to go around the country letting everybody know who stands with us and who stood against us.”
Related reports on this site
Immigration: Government vs. The People (July 28, 2010)
Immigration Enforcement Surge (June 25, 2010)
Arizona Tough on Illegal Immigration (April 23, 2010)
Statement on Illegal Immigration (July 15, 2008)
FROM THE ARCHIVES: One Year Ago — December 9, 2009
One year ago today, I provided my weekly report of U.S. military deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Army Pfc. Derrick D. Gwaltney, 21, Cape Coral, Fla., died Nov. 29, 2009, south of Basra, Iraq, of injuries sustained from a noncombat-related incident [a single gunshot wound to his head, according to family members]. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 377th Field Artillery Regiment, 17th Fires Brigade, Fort Lewis, Wash.
FROM THE ARCHIVES: Two Years Ago — December 9, 2008
Two years ago today, on Dec. 9, 2008, I reported that a study by the International Council on Security and Development (ICOS) concluded that the Taliban insurgency was widening its presence in Afghanistan and “closing a noose around Kabul.” According to the report, titled “Struggle for Kabul: The Taliban Advance,” the Taliban “now holds a permanent presence in 72 percent of Afghanistan, up from 54 percent a year ago.”
Update: Smoke rises from a shopping mall after a Taliban attack in Kabul on Monday, Jan. 18, 2010. Taliban gunmen battled security forces for hours, as the government forces restored control after the attack. At least five people, including a child, were killed and nearly 40 wounded, officials said. (Photo credit: Ahmad Masood / Reuters) … View more photos
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