Politics

Democrats make final push for DREAM Act

With the clock ticking toward the end of the 111th Congress, Democrats are making a final push to advance a measure that would extend a path to citizenship to millions of undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States by their parents.

The House and Senate will hold votes on the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors or “DREAM” Act today, although it is unlikely to pass given Republican resistance. This is presumably the last chance immigration reform advocates have to pass a bill on the issue this year. Democratic Whip Sen. Dick Durbin conceded Wednesday that the push would be an “an uphill struggle in both the House and the Senate” and said he “doubts” Democrats will hold another vote before Congress adjourns.

The bill in part would provide a path to citizenship for children of undocumented immigrants if they agree to apply to seek an educational degree or serve in the United States military.

“We’re going to have a vote today, and it’s about time,” said Illinois Rep. Luis Gutierrez, whose eyes appeared to well up as he addressed reporters Wednesday morning.

Despite the last-minute push, the hurdles the bill faces in the Senate are likely to be too high for the measure to pass.

Last week all 42 Senate Democrats signed a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid that said the party would not consider voting for any measures until the Bush-era tax rates are extended and Congress passes a resolution to fund the government into the next year. The measure requires 60 votes in the Senates to pass cloture, which means any bill will require bipartisan support.

Failure to pass the bill would likely suspend the measure for years. Republicans, who have broadly spoken out against the proposal, will assume control of the House in January and close the gap on the Democratic majority in the Senate. Opponents contend that the proposal is a form of “amnesty” for a portion of the population who immigrated to the United States illegally. The bill’s backers counter that children should not be punished for the actions of their parents.

The bill has the support of Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, who touted her record on border enforcement Wednesday and said that her department has deported more undocumented immigrants in the past two years than in “any other two-year period.”

“Having a law to deport young people who are graduating from high school, who are going to college or have served in our military in active duty makes no sense,” Napolitano said.

The bill, she argued, would allow the department to focus on deporting undocumented immigrants who commit felonies, instead of the children of parents who cross the border illegally, which is a civil offense.

In September, the Senate blocked a defense spending bill that included the DREAM Act and will take a cloture vote exclusively on the measure Wednesday at 4:00 PM.

Email Chris Moody and follow him on Twitter