Despite the long efforts of student protestors, which led to nine UCLA students facing felony charges and the possible deportation of four ASU students, the Senate voted on Dec. 18 to not pass the DREAM Act. The dream of 20,000 immigrants in California, and 2 million immigrants across the country, was tossed into the realm of impossibilities as the act fell five votes short of the 60 required to pass. Had the DREAM Act passed, the “DREAMers” — those who would benefit from the act —would be able to gain legal status by pursuing post-high school education or joining the military.
The majority of 55 votes for the act came from Democrats, while the 41 against were Republicans. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) gave his opinion about why the act failed to pass.
“Unfortunately, [the DREAM Act] has fallen prey to the shameful cowardice of white politics,” he said during the DREAM Act Senate news conference on Dec. 18. “It’s a shame that white politics took the center course of this set of events.”
During this same news conference, Majority Leader Harry Reid addressed Republicans’ concern over the safety of the U.S. borders and the availability of education spots for Americans, as well as tuition assistance. He also explained why immigrant children should not be denied an education.
“Senate Republicans have spent years demonizing [immigrant] children; they’ve played to people’s worst fears,” Reid said. “They didn’t decide to come here…didn’t control the conditions in which they came.”
This brought forth the issue of having the children of immigrants pay for the actions of their parents.
A majority of Republicans voted against the Act.
Republican Tom Graves called it “a pathway to amnesty to encourage millions more illegal immigrants in our country,” while Republican Steve King said, “This bill [is] really not a dream; it’s a nightmare for tax payers of this country and for America itself.”
In response to these arguments used against the DREAM Act in the Senate, Rosalee Cabrera, the director of the Chicano Latino Resource Center here at UCSC and supporter of the act, stated the “DREAM Act [is] caught in a time warp of politics…the agenda [in Congress] has everything to do with not allowing an Obama proposal to pass.”
For Cabrera, the immigration conundrum in politics is reminiscent of playground brawls among school boys and girls — Democrats and Republicans — where nobody wins. When the Senate spat a big “No!” on the DREAM Act, the Republicans gained back the few feet they had lost when Obama’s Health Reform passed.
However, critics of the act say that the Democrats’ support is political maneuvering to gain the vote of the Latino populace for November. Whatever the case, students supporting and hoping to benefit from the act were devastated.
One such student is UCSC student Marissa Camacho, who is actively involved in the DREAM Network, an organization that supports and spreads awareness about the act.
“I felt disappointed about how the vote came about,” Camacho said. “It was really rushed.”
Omar Villa was also upset by the vote. Villa is a former AB 540 student and member of the Students Informing Now program, which supports undocumented students currently pursuing higher education at UCSC.
“Democrats were very weak,” he said. “They didn’t keep it together. A lot of them voted against [the act] and some senators didn’t even show up.”
He added that since Republicans have now taken over the Senate, it will be increasingly difficult for the DREAM Act to pass.
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) repeatedly stated his support of the act, yet he neglected to vote when the day came.
For the moment the DREAM Act will have to wait, yet Reid gave comforting words during the news conference to the supporters of the act.
“We’re not going to give up,” Reid said. “The DREAM Act is going to pass … it’s the right thing to do, not just for the future of young Americans but for our own.”
This is “just a small stop,” Cabrera said, “there will be another effort, we need to get out there and do more work.”