On Wednesday night, the House of Representatives was able to start the tide turning on the debate about illegal immigration in the United States. By Thursday, a filibuster by Senate GOP stalled traction on the bill.
The hotly-debated DREAM Act, or Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act of 2010 as it’s formally known, passed in the House by a margin of 216-198. As anticipated, the vote was largely along party lines. Eight Republicans voted in favor of the measure, while nearly 40 Democrats sides with the GOP.
The legislation is aimed at young people who were brought to the United States illegally by their parents, but have made a positive life for themselves as a result. There are two stages where a person’s citizenship can change in the process.
To gain ‘non-immigrant’ status, an applicant would need to meet the following criteria:
- Have come to the U.S. before age 16
- Be under the age of 30 at the time of application
- Have graduated from high school or obtained a GED certificate
- Have been in the U.S. for five years prior to the DREAM Act becoming a law
- Be in good moral standing
- Have not committed any deportable offenses
From there, an option for permanent resident status would be available to those who have completed two years of college or military service. Estimates show that up to 300,000 people would be eligible for some form of change in their citizenship status under the bill as it stands.
The DREAM Act has received wide support from not only Democrats, but Latino and immigration activists alike. President Obama has been seeking a vote in favor of the measure to showcase his administration’s positive work on immigration.
After passage by the House, the next hurdle for the DREAM Act was the U.S. Senate where it is unclear until Thursday night whether proponents of the Act had the 60 votes needed for passage. Since Democrats only hold a 59-seat majority in the chamber, they reached across the aisle to convince some Republicans of the need for the new law. Efforts stalled, however, when a lengthy filibuster by GOP leaders torpedoed the effort. Thanks to a procedural move by Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, the House version of the bill remains alive and the Senate will take up the issue again next week.
The Obama Administration is aiming to get passage on the bill this month during the lame-duck session of Congress. He faces a GOP-controlled House and a stronger minority in the Senate when the 112th Congress is sworn in on January 3.