Julie Hirschfeld Davis, Washington Post, Dec. 9, 2010
The Senate moved Thursday to delay a politically charged showdown vote on legislation carving out a path to legal status for foreign-born youngsters brought to this country illegally, putting off but probably not preventing the measure’s demise.
Facing GOP objections, Democrats put aside the so-called Dream Act and said they’d try again to advance it before year’s end. They’re short of the 60 votes needed to do so, however, and critics in both parties quickly said they won’t change their minds in the waning days of the Democratic-controlled Congress.
The bill grants hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children a chance to gain legal status if they enroll in college or join the military.
The House passed it Wednesday night after Democratic leaders painstakingly lined up the votes to push it through. Just eight Republicans joined Democrats to support it while almost 40 Democrats defected to vote “no.”
In the Senate, Democrats had virtually no chance of attracting any GOP support to move the legislation since all 42 Republicans have signed a letter pledging to block action on any issue until bills to extend expiring tax cuts and fund the government were completed.
Even once those agreements are reached, though, it’s unlikely Democrats would be able to gather the 60 votes needed for quick action on an issue as emotional and complicated as immigration.
The measure is viewed by Hispanic activists and immigrant advocates as a down payment on what they had hoped would be broader action by President Barack Obama and Congress to give the nation’s 10 million to 12 million undocumented immigrants a chance to gain legal status.
Critics denounce the bill as a backdoor amnesty grant that would encourage more foreigners to sneak into the United States in hopes of eventually being legalized as well.
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 would dim 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.