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USA UK and Malta News
24/10/2007 - 21:39

Editoweb USA: Senate kills bill to help illegal immigrants' kids

WASHINGTON — The Senate today rebuffed a measure that would grant legal status to hundreds of thousands of young illegal immigrants if they attend college or join the military.

Supporters of the DREAM Act fell eight votes short of the 60 needed to keep the legislation alive, with Texas GOP Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn splitting over the bill. Cornyn voted against the measure on a key test vote while Hutchison worked behind the scenes with the legislation's chief sponsor to find ways to make it more palatable to Republicans.

"I don't want to hold out false hope," Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said when asked if he'd try to bring his legislation up again this year. "We did our best today."

After the implosion in the Senate last June of a sweeping immigration bill backed by the Bush administration, advocates decided to offer smaller measures in hopes of limiting the opposition that derailed legalization for most of the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in the country.

The DREAM Act was first out of the chute, presented by supporters as a targeted bill designed to help children who played no part in their parents' decision to come here illegally.

"What good does it do anybody to prevent these young people from having a future?" said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev. "It harms children who have done no wrong, and in the long run greatly harms our country."

But opponents insisted the legislation was nothing more than an amnesty program which they claimed could open the door to citizenship for the students' parents and other relatives. The White House also opposed the measure.

"I do not believe we should reward illegal behavior," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. "It is our duty to promote respect for America's immigration laws."

The legislation, officially known as the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, would allow hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants under the age of 30 who came here under age 16, and have lived here at least five years, to attain legal status, and eventually citizenship, if they complete two years of college or serve in the military for at least two years.

Cornyn complained that the legislation contained "gaping loopholes," including not requiring that illegal immigrants graduate from college, granting them access to federal student loans and limiting investigation of possible application fraud.

"If my colleagues who support this measure are committed to solving America's immigration crisis and the plight of illegal immigrants, then the focus of this Congress should be on passing a comprehensive reform bill that addresses all of our pressing immigration matters, including securing our broken borders and the needs of American businesses for more workers," Cornyn said.

The Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan immigration research organization, has estimated that the DREAM Act could provide immediate conditional legal status to 360,000 high school graduates under the age of 24 and help 715,000 currently in school.


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