DREAM Act Fails to Advance in Senate

dream act activist

Supporters of the DREAM Act were disappointed in the failure of the bill to garner 60 Senate votes. (Photo: dreamactivist/flickr)

Epic phone banking, hunger strikes, vigils, and personal lobbying of senators by President Obama ultimately could not garner the 60 votes needed to advance the DREAM Act in the Senate on Saturday. Though it won a majority of votes, at 55-41, the bill that would allow young undocumented immigrants who came to this country before the age of 16 to apply for legal status couldn’t get beyond a filibuster.

Hundreds of thousands of youth brought to America as children, who speak English and consider the U.S. their home, saw their hopes dashed. They cannot work legally or qualify for financial aid for higher education, and many work in the underground economy in order to survive.

“That the DREAM Act wasn’t passed doesn’t mean that we grab our bags and go to another country. The battle continues,” said Natalia Aristizabal of Make The Road New York.

It wasn’t a vote that fell totally along party lines. Five Democrats voted against the bill—Max Baucus (D-MT), Kay Hagan of (D-NC), Ben Nelson (D-NE), Mark Pryor (D-AR) and Jon Tester of (D-MT), and three Republicans voted in favor of it—Richard Lugar (R-IN), one of the bill’s sponsors, Robert Bennett (R-UT), and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK).

“Definitely, we won’t forget who didn’t support us in the next elections,” said Daniela Alulema, a young DREAMer at the New York State Youth Leadership Council.

The House of Representatives passed the DREAM Act in early December by a margin of 216-198.

President Obama called the bill’s failure an “incredible disappointment,” and DREAM Act activists echoed that sentiment.

“Our economy and our global competitiveness take a hit when we fail to recognize and develop the talents of our next generation’s best and brightest,” said Hector Figueroa, Secretary Treasurer of 32BJ SEIU, in a statement.

Sen. Murkowski said she would work with the new Congress on achieving broader immigration reform. “I firmly believe that Congress needs to embrace the wider immigration question, starting with securing our borders, and I plan to work with my colleagues on this issue in the new Congress,” she said.

“It’s a mixture of frustration, with anger and sadness, because one more time the Senate failed us and the immigrant community. Many of us risked our lives and the security of our family coming out publicly in the street, but the Senate didn’t recognize this,” explained Jaqueline Cinto, of the New York State Youth Leadership Council.

Catalina Jaramillo contributed reporting for this article.

Fi2W is supported by the New York Community Trust and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation with additional support from the Mertz Gilmore Foundation.

AboutSarah Kate Kramer
Sarah Kate Kramer first got hooked on collecting stories as a StoryCorps facilitator, then traveled the world with a microphone for a few years before settling down in her hometown of New York City. From 2010-2012 she was the editor of Feet in 2 Worlds and a freelance reporter for WNYC Radio, where she created “Niche Market,” a weekly segment that profiled specialty stores in New York. Sarah is now a producer at Radio Diaries, a non-profit that produces documentaries for NPR and other public radio outlets.