Analysis: "Dream Act" failure kills immigration reform hopes

PHOENIX Sat Dec 18, 2010 4:23pm EST

Students, some wearing graduation caps and gowns, cry after watching from the senate gallery as opponents block passage of the ''Dream Act'' at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, December 18, 2010.REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Students, some wearing graduation caps and gowns, cry after watching from the senate gallery as opponents block passage of the ''Dream Act'' at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, December 18, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst

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PHOENIX (Reuters) - Defeat of a bill that would have created a pathway to citizenship for some young illegal immigrants dashes President Barack Obama's hopes of passing broad immigration reform in the new Congress, but his popularity among Hispanics is undiminished, analysts said.

The so-called "Dream Act" giving legal status to illegal immigrants brought to the United States before age 16 was dealt a death blow in the Senate on Saturday by Republicans who said it would reward illegal activity.

Obama and Democratic supporters immediately vowed to push again for the measure. The president pledged that he would not give up on "the important business of fixing our broken immigration system."

But analysts said Saturday's outcome killed prospects of passing a comprehensive immigration bill in the next Congress, where Republicans will have control of the House of Representatives and a stronger hand in the Senate.

"Immigration reform is effectively dead in the water for Obama," said Mark Jones, a political scientist at Rice University.

"It will be impossible to get any progressive bill through the House in the next Congress, and it will be virtually impossible in the Senate ... as it won't make sense politically," he said.

In the 2008 presidential campaign, Obama had promised to push for an immigration overhaul, boosting border security and offering steps to legal status for many of the nearly 11 million illegal immigrants living in the shadows.

After Republicans take control of the House next month, immigration measures are likely to focus on tightening enforcement and limiting immigration, said Steven Camarota of the pro-enforcement Center for Immigration Studies think tank.

"There will be more focus on robust enforcement, more hearings designed to highlight problems in the immigration services ... and efforts to try to limit chain migration" which admits relatives of immigrants already in the United States, he said.


The Dream Act would have provided legal residency to young people who came to the United States illegally before age 16 and who graduated from high school, completed two years of college or military service and had no criminal record.

But Obama's failure to push it through the Senate was unlikely to have damaged his support among key Latino voters as he seeks re-election in 2012, analysts said.

Latinos turned out for Obama by a 2-to-1 margin in 2008, and their support in last month's midterm congressional elections helped Democrats hold on to important Senate seats in the Southwest.

"Obama and the White House fought hard for the Dream Act and won points for doing so" among Hispanics, said Frank Sharry, executive director of America's Voice, which advocates for immigration reform.

"If you are a Republican who voted against this, you will be forever known for standing in the schoolhouse door and saying 'no' to the best and brightest," he added.

With dim prospects for pushing immigration reform legislation in the next Congress, some Hispanic activists caution that they will look to Obama to use his executive powers to help immigrant causes.

Jorge Mario Cabrera, of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, gave as an example a moratorium on immigration raids.

"He can change a lot of suffering for our community by the stroke of a pen, and we will be pressing him to do that during the next two years," he said.

(Editing by Xavier Briand)

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Comments (21)
DelawareBob wrote:
This was a good day for the American people. No amnesty for the illegal aliens. If the illegal aliens leave right now, they can be home for Christmas or at least by New Year’s Day. God bless American, and those who voted to give them amnesty, we will take care of you in 2012.

Dec 18, 2010 5:54pm EST  --  Report as abuse
bkerensa wrote:
As a democrat I was never supportive of the dream act the text of the bill essentially allows “young” illegal immigrants to simply enroll in college for a term and then become legal citizens…. Why should we reward people who are here illegally? If parents brought them here then it is not their fault but at the same time they still are here illegally and we should not be rewarding illegal behavior.

At the same time this dream act would cost tax payers billions of dollars a year and the price tag would increase annually since the new citizens would get benefits like food stamps, medicaid, medicare, financial aid etc and there children would get the same.

Dec 18, 2010 6:15pm EST  --  Report as abuse
user8192 wrote:
Amen, DelawareBob. We don’t hate immigrants, but the illegal aliens need to go home and stop burdening our system. Next step — clean house in Congress and re-establish pre-1960 immigration quotas to levels that U.S. society and the economy can accommodate. THAT would be real immigration reform!

Dec 18, 2010 6:21pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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