Under the DREAM Act, legislation pioneered with bipartisan support by Senators Orin Hatch (R-Utah) and Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), undocumented youth would have been eligible to receive U.S. citizenship after a six-year long period during which they would be required to complete either a college degree or two years of military service.
Although the House of Representatives passed the bill last week, it was blocked in the Senate after receiving only 55 votes, five short of the 60 needed to bring the bill to the floor for debate, according to the New York Times.
President Obama said he was dissatisfied with the results of the Senate vote.
“It is disappointing that common sense did not prevail today,” President Obama said in a statement. “But my administration will not give up on the Dream Act, or on the important business of fixing our broken immigration system.”
Supporters of the bill claimed it would have rewarded hard-working immigrants who had spent the majority of their lives and educational careers in the U.S.
“[Illegal immigrants] are relegated to the shadows by their status,” Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) said on the floor. The bill, she said, “provides an opportunity and incentive for them to prove themselves.”
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and David Rattray, senior vice president of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, have also voiced their support for the bill.
Opponents, however, argued that the bill too closely resembled amnesty for illegal immigrants.
“The bill at its core is a reward for illegal activities,” Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) said in his comments on the floor.
According to an LA Times/USC poll taken after the Nov. 2 midterms, 85 percent of Democrats in California and 68 percent of Republicans supported the idea of the Dream Act. California had been working on a statewide version of the bill.
The failure of the Senate to pass the bill means that any sweeping immigration reform is unlikely to occur under the current Congress, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The bill will now be pushed into the next Congressional term — which begins January 2011 — where Republicans will wield more control.