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Continuing the Push for the DREAM Act

Harry Reid’s effort to attach the DREAM Act to the defense authorization bill was killed today when Republicans filibustered the bill. Reid promised he’d continue to fight for the act, and immigrants rights advocates have pledged their support. Reid said today the Senate would eventually vote on the DREAM Act, telling senators “this isn’t the end of this.”

But if not now, when will it possible to pass the DREAM Act? It’s unclear when the Senate could next take up the bill. There is very little time left before the Senate leaves again for its pre-election recess, and afterward it may be tough to pass legislation in a lame duck session.

“The legislative calendar for this year is growing very short,” Ira Mehlman of the anti-immigration reform group FAIR told TWI. “It’s a certainty that there’s going to be a lame duck session. As you get closer and closer to the end of congress, it’s going to be more difficult to pass the DREAM Act.”

FAIR opposes the DREAM Act. But some supporters of immigration reform also voiced doubts that Reid will be able to pull off passage this year. The main issue is Republican support. While some senators, such as Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) might vote for the DREAM Act on its own, many others have said they would not support the measure.

Mary Giovagnoli, director of Immigration Policy Center, says today’s vote could indicate Republicans would be unwilling to support the DREAM Act in the future. “It’s pretty clear that it was a party line vote,” she told TWI this afternoon. “Consequently, unless some Republicans are brave enough to step over the line, it’s going to remain gridlocked.”

Despite challenges, supporters said they will continue to push for legislation to help illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. as children gain legal status through school or military service. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), one of the main advocates of comprehensive immigration reform in Congress, said “the fight is not over” for the DREAM Act.

“All we need is a small handful of relatively brave Republican Senators to step up to let the debate move forward, which could happen tomorrow if they choose to put the people before politics,” Gutierrez said in a statement.

Immigrants rights advocates said they will continue to put the heat on Republicans to support the DREAM Act, specifically those they believe might support the DREAM Act as a standalone bill or amendment to another piece of legislation.

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