The U.S. Senate failed to advance a defense bill Tuesday afternoon that would have led to the possible passage of legislation to help undocumented students gain citizenship.
The defense bill, which had the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act attached as an amendment, fell short of the 60 votes needed to advance, with a final vote of 56-43.
The DREAM Act would have created a path to citizenship for undocumented students under 35 who entered the United States before the age of 16, have been in the country for five consecutive years, and have graduated high school. The act requires these students to go to college or enlist in the military.
Another amendment to the defense bill would have repealed the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, which bans gays from openly serving in the military.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., voted against the bill even though undocumented college students have been camping outside of his Phoenix office since Thursday night to convince him to vote for it.
“This is a cynical ploy to try to galvanize and energize their (the Democrats’) base — in the case of the DREAM Act — the Hispanic vote,” McCain told McClatchy Newspapers after the vote on Tuesday afternoon.
Eugene Garcia, vice president for ASU’s Education Partnerships, said the DREAM Act is an important political message for Latinos in general.
“It could send the message that Latinos are important in society,” he said.
Brandy Baron, a 54-year-old Arizona native at the DREAM Army site on Tuesday, called the act a type of amnesty for law-breakers.
She said public schools should be checking for documentation and not allowing undocumented students to get an education in the United States because it would save taxpayer money.
“They should go back to their home countries and get an education there,” Baron said.
Maggie Walsh, a journalism senior at ASU, said critics are correct when they say the act would reward undocumented students for breaking the law.
“From a political point, they’re right,” she said. “It seems unfair for those who came here legally.”
On Tuesday morning, ASU President Michael Crow announced his support for the DREAM Act in a phone conference with leaders from other American universities and Diana Rebolledo, a 20-year-old undocumented student from Michigan.
“High achievement, particularly in children, must be recognized regardless of the political situation that they find themselves in,” Crow said.
Rebolledo said in the phone conference that her parents brought her to the United States when she was 9-years-old.
“I never questioned my parents’ decision,” she said. “I knew my dad wanted to give us a better future and unfortunately in my home country that was not an option.”
Reach the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org