Senate GOP Defeats DREAM Act

By Shankar Vedantam, The Washington Post

The Dream Act, which would grant permanent residency to immigrants who were brought to the United States as children and who have completed some time in college or in the armed forces has been a sought-after goal for Democrats, who attached the measure to an important defense spending bill. Republicans used a procedural vote to block the bill. Immigration advocates accused Republicans of sacrificing the well-being of thousands of young people to cater to nativist sentiment.

Brent Wilkes, national executive director of the League of United Latin American Citizens, said the vote showed that the Republican party had “once again proven that when Latinos need support, they support a different constituency even when the constituency they are supporting does not have a dog in the fight. If my kids are legal and they are going to college, why would I want to stick it to my neighbor’s kids?”

Senate Democrats vowed to reintroduce the Dream Act, but odds of the measure becoming law this year are slim.

In a day of fast-moving action, Republicans released a draft of a memo they said was composed by Department of Homeland Security staff to explore ways to create a more lenient immigration system, with expedited approvals for visas and family reunification, and measures to head off deportations of undocumented immigrants.

“Done right, a combination of benefit and enforcement-related measures could provide the administration with a clear-cut political win,” reads the draft memo, dated Feb. 26, 2010. The draft, released by Republican senators to the news media, does not cite an author. A Republican congressional staff member who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk about the matter said the memo was sent to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.

“We would need to give the legislative process enough time to play out to deflect against charges of usurping Congressional authority,” the 10-page memo says. Referring to the hopes for passing comprehensive immigration reform (CIR), it adds, “announcement of such measures would have to wait until it was evident that no legislative action on CIR was possible by the current Congress. This is likely to mean the best time for administrative action will be late summer or fall — when the midterm election season is in full swing.”

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