With the DREAM Act essentially shelved and the Republican majority holding sway in the Senate, the Obama administration is looking for ways to shore up their immigration stance and gather support around them once again. The DREAM Act, in conjunction with increasing deportation of illegal immigrants with a criminal record, was part of President Obama’s strategy when he was elected into office. It would have allowed immigrants that were illegally brought here as children to become US citizens after they received a higher education or enlisted in the military. For many immigrants, some of them future college students, this was their only chance at a new life.
The bill’s defeat was a major setback for Obama, since he had called it one of his priorities for many years. Given that one side of the strategy was the DREAM Act, all that Obama is left with is the tougher deportation measures. Now, he is tasked with finding ways to temper those actions without the DREAM Act. To try to garner support, “part of the administration’s strategy has been to ramp up border and workplace enforcement to attract Republican votes for the overhaul,” but the resulting vote spoke for itself.
Due to the defeat of the bill, Obama’s administration will face more pressure from the groups that originally supported him, such as Latinos. Not only that, the Republicans in Congress will be even more supportive of tougher immigration enforcement, in the legal realm and in the deportation of illegal immigrants. The “presumed incoming chairman of the House Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on immigration” is more than likely Rep. Steve King of Iowa. He is known for his opposition to legalization measures, calling them “amnesty for lawbreakers.” Not only that, Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, poised to be the Judiciary Committee Chairman, is also opposed to legalization measures.
Those that lobbied against the bill were elated with the news, including the president of NumbersUSA, Roy Beck, a key organization that lobbied against the bill. Beck also said, “the new Congress has the strongest pro-enforcement membership in at least 15 years,” and that he is looking forward to keying up the offense even more.
Some officials toyed with the idea of granting temporary legal status to those who would have qualified under the DREAM Act’s measures, and to halt their deportation. They also wanted to put a cap on deportations of illegal immigrants who had no criminal record. These proposals did not get very far. Republican lawmakers called these measures “backdoor amnesty” and have now promised to stop any more legislation that would carry this out.
Despite this defeat, and the bleak outlook for the future of this bill, Democrats and other supporters are hopeful for the future. The gray area is already expanding; John Morton, head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, stated that the “brisk pace of deportations” would continue, albeit with a trained eye on those with criminal records. However, that same day he made the announcement, his department granted a one year temporary permit for a detained, 18-year-old Guatemalan student from Ohio to continue his education.
The main supporter of the bill, Sen. Richard J. Durbin from Illinois, said, “as long as these young people are determined to be part of this great nation, I am determined to fight for them to call
America home.” Others, both lawmakers and voters alike, vowed to remember those that did and did not vote for the bill. It seems as if the defeat has only fueled even more fervor and support for the bill, as thousands of illegal immigrants, many of them future college students, revealed their status and spoke out in support of the bill.
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