Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM
WASHINGTON — The Senate fell five votes short of advancing the DREAM Act on Saturday, ending — for now — the 10-year quest of chief sponsor Sen. Dick Durbin to pass an immigration bill to allow undocumented students a pathway to remain in the country legally.
“I promise I will never give up this fight,” Durbin (D-Ill.) said after the measure failed 55-41. A supermajority, or 60 votes, were needed to avoid a filibuster. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) voted against advancing the legislation.
The vote came after a rare, duel-topic debate on the Senate floor of the DREAM Act along with the repeal of the “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” ban on gays serving openly in the military which passed and was sent to President Obama to sign.
The measure passed in the House earlier in December in a 216-198 vote. Senate Democrats knew going into the DREAM Act roll call they likely did not have the votes, but went ahead because Hispanics are a major voting bloc and immigration activists — who knew there was no chance to pass comprehensive immigration reform — wanted one last try on the narrower measure.
On Sept. 10, 2001, Durbin launched his fight to allow students of illegal immigrants to stay in the U.S. at a press conference in Chicago’s Pilsen neighborhood. The DREAM Act became part of a larger national debate on the hot button, divisive immigration issue.
Opponents have been arguing that the DREAM Act was a form of amnesty that rewards families of those who came to the U.S. illegally.
On the Senate floor on Saturday, Durbin said the vote was on “whether or not the United States Senate will stand by thousands of children in America who live in the shadows and dream of greatness. They have children who have been raised in this country. . . . They believe in their heart of hearts this is home.”
Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.), who has been a national leader on immigration issues, said in a statement, if Republicans “are betting that Latino and immigrant voters will forget what happened today in Washington, they will be sadly mistaken.”