Democratic Majority Whip Sen. Dick Durbin (Ill.) failed in his attempt to push forth legislation to give green cards to illegal aliens who attend college Wednesday.
Durbin, who has tried several times to pass the DREAM Act over the last five years, was handed another defeat when he fell eight votes short of the 60 needed to proceed with the bill.
The Senate has already rejected the bill three times this year as a part of comprehensive immigration reform proposals. The measure would provide green cards to illegal aliens under the age of 30 who have lived in the United States for five years and are enrolled in college or have served in the “uniformed services” for two years. “Uniformed services” applies to organizations like the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration as well as the military.
As written, the DREAM Act does not include any language to enhance national security and would, according to the Migration Policy Institute, make at least 1.3 million illegal aliens eligible for green cards.
Other estimates, using data from the 2007 Census Bureau, predict up to 4.4 million undocumented persons could obtain green cards under this law.
Republican Sen. Jim DeMint’s (S.C.) spokesman Wesley Denton said in a phone interview, “the crazy thing is, the reason the Senate rejected [previous] immigration reform bills is that they contained amnesty. Now, the Democrats are trying to push amnesty alone without any enforcement measures.”
To ramp up support for the bill, Durbin held a press conference on Capitol Hill Tuesday afternoon with two illegal alien college students and one who had obtained permanent legal status.
In retaliation, GOP presidential candidate Rep. Tom Tancredo (Colo.), who campaigns aggressively on border enforcement, asked Capitol Police and immigration officials to arrest the undocumented students. “Just because these illegal aliens are being used for political gain doesn't mean they get immunity from the law," Tancredo said in a statement. "If we can't enforce our laws inside the building where American laws are made, where can we enforce them?"
Officials declined to take action against the students.
Brian Darling, director of Senate relations for Heritage, said Durbin’s press event was a part of the Democrats’ larger strategy to “play the kid card.” He likened it to the decision made last month by Democratic leadership to use 12-year old Graeme Frost in their standoff with President Bush over expansion of the State Children’s Health Insurance Program.
Several Republicans complained that Democrats called the bill for a vote with little notice. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D.-Nev.) filed a motion to proceed with the bill late Monday evening. Less than 48 hours later, it was called for a vote.
Republican presidential candidate Fred Thompson, who unveiled his formal immigration plan Tuesday, seized on this opportunity to criticize Democrats. His campaign issued a statement that said: "Apparently our Democratic friends in Congress have learned a thing or two from the ‘coyotes,’ because just when we’d thought we’d sent the illegal-immigrant amnesty bill packing (at least for this year), Congress has ignored the public’s wishes and is trying to sneak what amounts to another amnesty bill through."
In addition to the legislation’s two Republican co-sponsors--Sens. Chuck Hagel (Neb.) and Richard Lugar (Ind.)-- nine GOP senators voted to support the DREAM Act. They were: Sen. Bob Bennett (Utah.), Sen. Sam Brownback (Kans.), Sen. Susan Collins (Maine), Sen. Larry Craig (Idaho), Sen. Orrin Hatch (Utah), Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (Tex.), Sen. Trent Lott (Miss.), Sen. Mel Martinez (Fla.) and Sen. Olympia Snowe (Maine.).
For a complete roll call vote click here.