• September 1, 2015

The Dream Act Is Dead, at Least for Now

Democrats' dreams of passing an immigration bill before the midterm elections died Tuesday, when Senate Republicans blocked a measure that could have carried legislation benefiting undocumented college students.

Senate Democrats had planned to offer the bill, known as the Dream Act, as an amendment to a measure reauthorizing Defense Department programs. But Republicans thwarted that plan, gaining enough votes to defeat a motion to proceed to debate on the defense bill.

The vote also doomed efforts to repeal the "don't ask, don't tell" policy, which bars openly gay individuals from serving in the military. That policy has created tensions at some law schools between military recruiters and faculty members who oppose the rule. Law schools that have barred recruiters from their campuses have been threatened with the loss of federal funds, and two—the Vermont Law School and the William Mitchell College of Law, in Minnesota—have been stripped of that aid.

A repeal of "don't ask, don't tell," which Democrats also included in the defense bill, would have helped end the fight over military recruiting on law-school campuses.

But Tuesday's vote may not have been a complete loss for Democrats, who are fighting to retain control of Congress in the midterm elections. Even though the bill failed, the fact that Democrats sought to advance the legislation could increase Hispanic turnout in the elections. If it does, those voters could help Democrats hold on to the Senate and maybe even the House of Representatives.

The Dream Act, which was first proposed 10 years ago, would create a path to citizenship for undocumented students and make them eligible for some federal student aid. Advocates see it as the solution to many barriers facing illegal immigrants who want to enroll in college and go on to well-paying jobs and productive lives in the United States. But critics say it would reward illegal behavior and encourage more immigration.

The Latest Hurdle

Tuesday's vote was the latest setback for the Dream Act, which enjoys bipartisan support but has never made it through both chambers of Congress. The last time the bill was on the Senate floor, in 2007, 12 Republicans crossed the aisle to support the measure, and eight conservative Democrats broke rank to oppose it.

This time around, Democrats needed only one Republican vote to marshall the 60 votes necessary to take up the defense bill without threat of filibuster. Their hopes were pinned on Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who voted for the defense bill in the Armed Services Committee and was the only Republican who supported repealing "don't ask, don't tell." But Senator Collins ultimately voted with her party, saying she was concerned that Democratic leaders would limit Republican amendments. In the end, three Democrats—Sens. Blanche Lincoln, Mark Pryor, and Harry Reid, the majority leader—also voted against the bill. (Mr. Reid's vote was a procedural move that will allow him to bring up the bill for another vote.)

The bill's failure came as a disappointment to Senator Reid, a Nevada Democrat who is locked in a tough re-election battle and needs the support of Hispanic voters. Sen. Reid promised Nevada voters that he would make immigration reform a priority this year and had presented the Dream Act as a down payment on a broader overhaul. After Tuesday's vote, he promised that the Senate will "vote on the Dream Act. It's only a matter of when."

Supporters of the measure say they're undaunted by the setback. In a conference call with reporters on Tuesday afternoon, undocumented students vowed to find another legislative vehicle for the bill.

"This is not a defeat," insisted Gaby Pacheco, an undocumented immigrant who has earned three degrees at Miami Dade College. "The vehicle that the Dream Act was on got a flat tire, so now we're getting off that vehicle, and we're going to find the next vehicle that will make the Dream Act happen."


1. supertatie - September 22, 2010 at 08:00 am

This process of lumping all sorts of unrelated matters together and trying to cram them through in one legislative mess is corrupt. If the DREAM Act is worthy and enjoys broad popular support, then let it be introduced on its own, or as part of a larger legislative initiative about illegal immigration generally.

Ditto for trying to repeal "DADT," which should be done in a thoughtful manner, instead of trying to cram it down everyone's throats, as this Congress has done with everything it has passed in the last 18 months.

Harry Reid's manipulation of the legislative process for his own political ends is pitiful, and he deserves to lose in November.

2. 11172680 - September 22, 2010 at 08:20 am

Calling anything you disagree with "corrupt" (or "political" or "knee jerk" or a "job killer" or "crammed")is not helping the rational debate of political issues. Cool it!

3. qv_library - September 22, 2010 at 08:24 am

Interesting how the phrase "cram it down everyone's throat" is used: to characterize when a majority of voters have elected a majority of members of congress to bring about change-- and then when they attempt to bring about that change (as a majority party) it is called "cramming it own everyone's throat." Interesting way to characterize the process.

4. mschedlb - September 22, 2010 at 08:32 am

It's the process, not the legislation. Stop adding amendments to unrelated bills in the hope of passing something without considering its own merit. This is true of both parties and a practice that is corrupt -- it hand-cuffs members of Congress to vote on each bill according to its merit.

5. sharonmurphy - September 22, 2010 at 08:52 am

Let's not pretend that the NO vote (no surprise!) was based on anything other than anti-immigrant, anti-gay, anti-Obama sentiments. Let McCain posture piously about wanting to wait for all the surveys, etc. But let the people see the reality. And let us in the academy remind our students (and some of our lazy colleagues) about the importance of exercising our right to vote - and get to the polls in November, electing individuals who are committed to democracy, not theorcracy.

6. christianmc - September 22, 2010 at 09:22 am

Wonderful post sharonmurphy.

@supertatie: Easier said than done. People -- undocumented students themselves especially -- have been pushing to introduce the DREAM Act as a standalone bill for *years*. As the article notes, it's been 10 years and going. No one wants to touch it. After "comprehensive reformation" failed, both the left and the right were saying DREAM was over too. And out of nowhere DREAM was part of this bill. It was new news to us just as it was to you.

And the truth it, they're holding off on facing the big, scary monster until they're forced to. You could tell that just from watching CSPAN yesterday. This vote was just further proof that the prejudice of some people -- our own elected officials -- stopped them before they could even DISCUSS the issue (which is what this bill would have done; NOT passed it). DADT will live to see its day but DREAM never will, at least for now.

7. haohtt - September 22, 2010 at 09:24 am

This is a nice propaganda piece for the Democratic National Committee. Democrats were able to pass previous legislation that they really wanted, although opposed by the majority of voters. Knowing that the special interest groups pushing these bills will vote Democrat know matter what, they used this half-hearted measure to try to show that they "still care" about these groups that they have virtually ignored for the last two years. I am sure that they would be gratified to know that the Chronicle plays right into their propaganda plans and disappointed to see how many Chronicle reader see right through it. By the way, sharonmurphy, equating "anti-illegal immigrant" with "anti-immigrant" is dishonest. Saying that either of our two political parties are committed to theocracy is just silly--neither of them are advocating that we switch to Sharia law.

8. greenhills73 - September 22, 2010 at 09:34 am

The process is just wrong. It is corrupt. All major issues should be considered and introduced on their own. This is one of the ways campaigns attempt to propagate lies about their candidate - saying the opponent "voted against thus and such," when in reality, he didn't want two unrelated issues lumped together and he could not vote for one without the other.

9. physicsprof - September 22, 2010 at 09:34 am

#5, sharonmurphy, I will pass on the offer. I fail to see what pro-Democrat election propaganda has to do with the Newton's laws.

10. 11250382 - September 22, 2010 at 09:39 am

This is a perfect example of why we need a "one vote, one subject" bill. Combining defense spending, don't ask, don't tell, and the "Dream" bill into one larger bill is wrong. Let's push for the one vote, one subject bill maybe then we can get our legislators (on both sides of the isle) to pay attention.

11. worddancer - September 22, 2010 at 09:55 am

People really need to stop broadcasting the inaccurate 'Democrats can get passed anything they really want to get passed' screed.

No, they can't. They need 60 votes to stop the Republican-let's-filibuster-everything tactic. They don't have them. Even if every Democrat endorsed the proposal, it can be derailed--and will be, if the disgraceful past obstructive behavior of this Congress is any hint of things to come.

Complain about the loading of legislation with things that you think are irrelevant if you want. 'Twas ever thus. Before you complain about the Democrats' agglomeration of things you think are irrelevant, one should acquaint oneself with the history of the Republicans' getting the 'Data Quality Act' and 'Data Access Act' passed. (Both were buried in 2000 page fiscal appropriations bills.)

At least the DREAM Act was there for all to see. It should have been passed. And of course 'Don't ask, don't tell,' in all its patent irrationality and gratuitous belittlment of gay people, should have been repealed.

One really should be asking of the two Democratic senators from Arkanas and the Republicans: what good, really, is served by the defeat of the DREAM Act and the repeal of DADT? Or is it just more shameless pandering to an increasingly racist and homophobic populace regularly riled up by the likes of Glenn Beck and Newt Gingrich?

12. getwell - September 22, 2010 at 10:09 am

And here again, I am reading polarizing comments relating to another biased article by the Chronicle. This country is more polarized than ever and I fear "we the people" will destroy democracy in the process. Isn't that what other countries across the oceans are betting on??

BOTH sides of the political arena have numerous "tricks up their sleeves" to get their legislation passed...this has been going on for decades. I repeat...on BOTH sides. Shame on both your houses!

Let's try to see the middle ground and let's all try to get along:)

13. jgpatterson - September 22, 2010 at 10:11 am

Truth is ducks quack, 2+2=4, and Reid's leadership is needs to end.

14. bnmoore - September 22, 2010 at 10:14 am

Post #1 is spot on and I cannot improve upon that person's comments. The DADT repeal nonsense, if passed, would have decidmated the volunteer military but, then again, maybe a return to the draft is actually what the Dems seek. And calling illegal students "undocumented" is babble-speak for the far left. This nation has laws, is already extremely open to the world, and rewarding lawbreakers is pretty lame. You want to come to school here? Get the student visa.

15. mmeisens - September 22, 2010 at 11:23 am

Finally, the Democratic Congress has actually acted in the way the the American public wants them to. The people may not always be right; but, they are not always wrong, as the Democrat Party thinks. This bill is the Mexican Citizenship bill. Let us be clear and honest. When one is talking about the problem of illegal aliens on any level, i.e. age, one is almost universally talking about Mexicans. There is no second group that even comes close to the problems that Mexicans are as illegals. By the way, for those of you who are unaware Puerto Ricans are American Citizens at birth.

16. jhough1 - September 22, 2010 at 11:35 am

The notion that the Democrats wanted this to pass is silly. A good bill or bad, it is political dynamite. Those who really want this bill except to appeal to a voter group must know that it must be part of a comprehensive bill that includes ID cards and more certain deportation, a sharp ereduction in family unification, limitations on outsourcing, and a better social network for middle and lower income Americans whose wages are crushed by immigration. The last is the real test. Otherwise the affluent "liberals" just want to keep wages and taxes low for the lower and middle-income who work for them and still have a position that gives them a "feel-good" illusion. There is a reason the New Democrats win the wealthy suburbs and states and lose the white middle-income by 20 points to those like Bush and lose the poor states. Who really is the more left party?

17. azprof - September 22, 2010 at 12:39 pm

It is so good to read other points of view about process rather than the simplistic conclusion that something is anti-... this or that if they didn't vote the way you believe "they should". Then to label it that it is the end of democracy, if you don't vote for a specific party. It scares me when people like sharonmurphy reduce this to a superficial black or white pov and anything else is couldn't possibly be relevant when others "don't see it my way". The irony is the more strident one tries to "indoctrinate" their students (such professorial cliche) the more students begin to see that those tenured professors don't have a clue about the real world the students and their parents face.

18. jbfromnc - September 22, 2010 at 01:33 pm

Hatch and Bennett of Utah both voted to put it on the military authorization bill in 2007, and McCain sponsored it in 2005, 2006, 2007, but that was before Hayworth forced him to run for the border. It is an appropriate attachment to this bill, the Pentagon thought, because one of the two conditions satisfying eligibility to begin the citizenship process would be completion of military service.

The inescapable fact is Republican political opportunism blocked a reasonable measure to begin an orderly process to regularize the status of 65,000 high school graduates a year. These are people who arrived in this country as children, many of them don't know their status until they want to get a driver license or apply for college.

I am a teacher. I have worked with DREAM Act-eligible students, and have had the distinct honor to work with "DREAM Activists". They are among the most dedicated and motivated students I have known. The activists, in particular, live their belief in this country, and their abiding faith in its justice. They do this in the face of hatred, in the face of rejection, and in the face of thuggish bullying by those with power over their lives. They do this because they know those thugs are not America. They know that America is that place they grew up loving.

I, for one, am proud to stand with DREAM-eligible students. I feel sorry for those who would turn their back on them.

19. physicsprof - September 22, 2010 at 02:08 pm

After thinking for a moment, I am now strongly in favor of the DREAM Act and also of illegal immigration in general. Look, illegals do not compete in my job market, but their cheap labor drives prices down for me. Also, if illegals are allowed into my classroom, they are likely to be more hard-working than those typical whining americans full of entitlement and consumerism. It will certainly improve my joy of teaching. One might argue that illegals drive tax revenues down and my salary is paid from the state budgets. True, and indeed the economic situation is probably unsustainable (also for many reasons unrelated to illegals) and budget cuts are increasingly coming to higher education. But here I am in a happy position too. Humanities and social sciences will surely be cut while noone in the sane state of mind would dare touch physics or chemistry, especially given all that hype about energy research. Let's vote Democrat.

20. veritasconsulting57 - September 22, 2010 at 02:31 pm

My laughter is analogous to a room of a thousand clowns when I read such posts...why can't we all just accept the simple fact that this DREAM Act will benefit those who are from non-European countries. So, let's think about this for a minute, why would it be in Uncle Sam's best interest to pass a bill that would actually uplift such masses? Xenophobia sets in and rather than have Black and Brown children in the same schools as their children, they hit the pani button and vote against it.

This has an odor of bigotry and covered with outright racist overtones. While many of us do not want to admit it, if this bill would have primarily benefited countries in the EU and Canadians, I really doubt that there would even be any hoopla, about it..but it primarily benefits Chicanos et al., so there's panic in the streets, and most politicians are running around screaming fire when there's not even a spark.

So my colleagues, I am saddened on one level but disappointed that the immigration issue has begun to really bring some interesting personalities in my fellow citizens. We believe in promoting equal rights and justice to many nations; in addition, many of our young soldiers are dying to protect the same value that we are denying these immmigrants. So I ask once again, what would the millions of immigrants in this country do now?

While I do concede that this immigrant issue is a convoluted one, we cannot sit back and watch many people get swept in rhetoric that are spewed by many so-called leaders. They are using their fear of immigrants to pass legislation that is similar to what Hitler did to stir anger towards the Jews in Nazi Germany...This is a dangerous path, and I do hope that at minimum our leaders and the progressive American public revisit this immigration issue by paying attention to ALL SIDES of the issues not just what Mr. Big Mouth Politician is saying.

The funny thing is if the average American knew what SOME American companies were doing in these same comuntries that have an illegal population in America, the immigration issue would change course..I wonder why some of us have eyes but refuse to see, ears and refuse to hear, brains but refuse to think...

I am highly saddened my Chronicle colleagues in cyberspace, and I do hope that the DREAM Act becomes a reality for so many people who believe in the values of this country..


21. fireflygirl - September 22, 2010 at 02:55 pm

I watched my Colombia-born aunt go through the process of applying for citizenship: the multiple tests and years of waiting and filling out forms and waiting some more. And at the end of it all, she expressed nothing but an appreciation for the history of our country and respect for the law. She worked HARD to become an American citizen, and she knew more about our history and judicial system than anyone else in my all American-born family! She is PROUD to have gone through the legal system rather than "marrying into" or being handed her citizenship and she has told us all that she does not approve of the "side-door entry" options that illegal immigrants are being given- not because she feels it's not fair because she had to go through all the work, but because she values what all that work gave her during the process: a respect for the country she wanted citizenship in.

I don't care if someone is from Germany, Mexico, France, or El Salvador: if an individual wants to be a citizen of the United States and be given the opportunities that citizenship offers, they need to do the work and put in the time to show they are committed to this country. I would never go to a foreign country and demand they speak English and give me free medical care just because I- or my parents- suddenly decided I wanted to live there. We don't give people higher education degrees for just showing up on campus: we give them degrees for the work and time they put in to show dedication. I know that may sound callous, but our citizenship laws were put into effect for a reason, not just because we suddenly decided to be elitist, regardless of what some might say. It was to protect our country and doing away with those laws or offering side deals is dangerous.

22. charlesfarrell - September 22, 2010 at 03:06 pm


What part of working hard to get a college education wouldn't be part of your same idea of working hard to earn your citizenship?

My spouse is also from Colombia and I have been through the heart ache and tears of struggling to get his papers in order. Nobody just marries into citizenship or gets side door entries. These kids want the opportunity to work HARD and become citizens of this great country. Nobody is being handed anything, in the opposite, there are requirements that have to be met, even in the Dream Act. Perhaps before you post you should research your facts more.

23. fireflygirl - September 22, 2010 at 03:22 pm


Yes, these KIDS want the opportunity, and that would be great and I completely agree with that. But the problem arises when you open that Pandora's box and people start taking advantage of that. Suddenly there are a lot more illegal adult immigrants bringing their children over the border with them for the express purpose of getting them into schools in order to obtain citizenship. This is not going to solve the illegal immigration issue: it's going to create another avenue of possible abuse. Yes, I want those kids to get an education too, I work with a lot of them as an employee in the social services field, but this provides the "side-door" and doesn't necessarily alleviate the illegal immigrant problem that a lot of Americans are worried about.

24. jbjbjb - September 22, 2010 at 03:47 pm

What part of "we can't take care of the US citizens we have now" is unclear to Americans. Off-shoring jobs and legalizing illegals is not logical. Wake up people. I work with college students and alumni who are trying to break into the job market....I can assure everyone that there are not enough jobs to go around. I say enough. It's time to look after America.

25. charlesfarrell - September 22, 2010 at 04:03 pm


We can take care of the US Citizens that we have now, but we choose not to. We have become a nation of whiners and we want everything handed to us. In fact, half the debate that we have over illegal immigration stems from a fear that someone other than us is going to get a handout. I agree with you that off-shoring our jobs is illogical. But that is not the fault of the immigrants. Perhaps we should deport some CEOs, not immigrant children.


Your post was beautiful, and as a student, I hope that someday I will write like that.

26. asrtide - September 22, 2010 at 04:40 pm

A couple of things. First, for those who point out that we can't afford the citizes we currently have, understand that the passage of this bill would provide a new taxable base within our current population. Not only would this set up a new source of taxable income, but it would remove certain elements that the current taxable base is supporting; that is it would provide more support to the population that is already here and unlikely to go anywhere. Second, for those who feel that those who would be affected by this bill should not be "rewarded" for their criminal actions. The bill allows amnesty only for those illegal immigrants who were brought over as minors. This is important to remember as a minor, under US Law, does not have the capacity to commit this crime. A minor cannot be expected to object to their parent's illegal immigration. They cannot be expected to stay behind without their families, and they cannot be considered complicit with the illegal aspect of the immigration. Finally, as I understant it, the bill was to cover only those illegals who came over as minors, had been continually present in the US for at least five years leading up to the passage of the bill, graduated high school (or received a GED), and were of good moral character. These qualifications do not appear to open the door to a mass influx of illegals and their children. Rather it appears to be a mechanism that allows those individuals who had no say in their immigration status, who wish to place a legitimate stake in our country.
I am shocked that those who would call themselves Americans would seek to deny others the privileges and rights that were granted to their own ancestors at the docks of Ellis Island and other ports of entry. Life is not black and white. This country is neither Left nor Right, it is neither Conservative nor Liberal, and it is neither Democrat nor Republican...it is American and it is time that we remembered who we are, where we came from, and what made us great. The rampant partisanship that currently plagues our political process serves only to hold us back as a nation. If there are legitimate issues that need to be discussed, we need to open our minds to the other side of the debate rather than simply burying our heads in the sand and claiming that the other side is wrong.

27. veritasconsulting57 - September 22, 2010 at 05:40 pm

Thank you for your kind words

@asrtide..THANK YOU!! At least there's someone that has done his/her homeowrk without resorting to toothless assertions


It is apparent that the politicians have also gotten to you and your usage of your Aunt as an example escapes me because no one is saying(at least to my knowledge)that illegal immigration is a good thing. What I and many voices like mine are advocating is for conscientious people to open their eyes and take a good look at what is going on. Realize that immigrants built this country, realize that America was built on the backs of several people, MANY of them illegals at that time as well.

So here we now have a law that would at MINIMUM be a step in the right direction, and you have such jingoistic pundits screaming at the top of the mountain saying "geronimo," when any common sense person KNOWS that their actions are ridiculous on many levels.

It is rather disappointing (as aforementioned) that such viewpoints get in the way of candid dialogue that should lead to productive actions. Lastly, I find it amusing that you used
Germany, Mexico, France, or El Salvador even though anyone that has travelled worldwide knows that the visa restrictions for these countries are like night and day. In other words the visas alloted to citizens of Germany and France are MUCH DIFFERENT than the ones to Mexico and EL Salvador; Thus you really still believe that these immigration rules are the same for all countries?

Like I had stated earlier, if this law would benefit those from France and Germany, etc., it would have passed through without a very limited opposition. Then again, I guess we could all be like "fireflygirl," and pretend that the emperor has no clothes.

I do appreciate your honesty though because your viewpoints are reflective of the sentiments expressed by many who somehow believe that immigrants will be lurking in your windows, and being a nuisance in your neighborhood. Such opinions are very dangerous for dialogue because it counters any sensible relationship and divides more than unite.

Oh well, I guess as you are spewing your venomous diatribes, the Native Americans are looking at us and wondering whether they would be able to get any reparations for their illegally seized and conquered land. Actually, I often do wonder what the Native Americans have to say about this immigration issue, it would be very interesting to get their take on this..then again, that would be a whole different forum...


28. amnirov - September 22, 2010 at 05:53 pm

I am fundamentally opposed to any attempt to tie citizenship to military service. That's the fast track to totalitarian dystopia.

29. veritasconsulting57 - September 22, 2010 at 06:13 pm

If you were an illegal immigrant and that was your window of opportunity, TRUST me you would take it...you not fooling me with these poly-syllabic words that sound fne in theory but fizzles under any practical level and/or application..


30. jffoster - September 23, 2010 at 07:33 am

SharonMurphy in 5 writes "And let us in the academy remind our students (and some of our lazy colleagues) about the importance of exercising our right to vote - and get to the polls in November, electing individuals who are committed to democracy, not theorcracy."

Any professor who does this in class or with students is abusing their position and ought be brought up on ethics charges.

The exercise of our right to NOT vote and thereby encourage the system can also be a considered decision and is not necessarily the result of "laziness".

31. erra2 - September 23, 2010 at 01:14 pm

@mmeisens "There is no second group that even comes close to the problems that Mexicans are as illegals. By the way, for those of you who are unaware Puerto Ricans are American Citizens at birth."

As a Puerto Rican, I do not appreciate being referred to as 'a problem'. As a human being, I also do not appreciate that same language being used to describe the Mexican people. The immigration problem is a systematic one; referring to the people as 'The' problem perpetuates and encourages discrimination and abuse.

32. johnfarley - September 23, 2010 at 05:28 pm

Some of you making these comments need to know some of the realities of immigration. Immigrants, legal and illegal, do not simply "take" jobs from Americans - they also spend money and create demand, thereby creating jobs. And they pay taxes and are, on the whole, relatively low users of governmental services. So the notion that they keep wages low, raise the unemployment rate, and cost the government money are oversimplified and for the most part wrong.

As to the political issue, both parties have attached things to bills that may seem unrelated. It does seem to me that DADT and the Dream Act both apply to a military appropriations bill, because DADT relates to military policy and the Dream Act will help the military get much-needed recruits. So attaching them to the military appropriations bill in this case is probably not nearly as inappropriate as a lot of things that have been attached to bills in the past, by BOTH parties. I think that was just an excuse for the Republicans to vote against it and deny the Democrats anything that coule be considered a success. The country suffers when good policies are blocked for such political reasons.

33. gplm2000 - September 23, 2010 at 06:02 pm

ARTICLE: "Advocates see it as the solution to many barriers facing illegal immigrants who want to enroll in college..." Which part of illegal is difficult to understand?

asrtide: "...not be "rewarded" for their criminal actions. The bill allows amnesty only for those illegal immigrants who were brought over as minors." FYI, these minors include ages up to 35yrs. or millions of illegals. Which part of illegal do you not understand?

sharonmurphy-----get a life!

veritasconsulting57: "Xenophobia sets in and rather than have Black and Brown children in the same schools as their children, they hit the pani button and vote against it. This has an odor of bigotry and covered with outright racist overtones." Thanks for the laugh this Thursday. Your racistxenophobia exceeds your euroxenophobia. When the performance of those "Brown" kids far-and-away exceeds that of those "Black" kids over the next 20 years, what will you say then?

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