Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Republican Filibuster Halts DREAM Act

Defeating a measure hotly anticipated by immigration reformers, the U.S. Senate voted Tuesday against closing debate on a bill containing the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, after failing to break a Republican-led filibuster. The result was a disappointment to many cultural and political groups on campus, as well as the university president.

Along with a $726 billion increase in funding for troops in Afghanistan, “don’t ask, don’t tell” and DREAM comprised the National Defense Authorization Act. The bill failed to advance to final consideration following Tuesday’s 56-43 vote.

The vote was based on party lines, with few exceptions. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ariz.), Mark Pryor (D-Ariz.), and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) voted against the bill. Reid’s voting against it allows for the bill to be brought up to vote again.

The DREAM Act, which allows undocumented students to become citizens after receiving their degree, has proved controversial on campus, with student groups and University President John J. DeGioia taking sides on the issue.

“[Undocumented immigrants seeking education] played by our rules, they’ve succeeded by our rules. By everything that we stand for as a people, they should have the opportunity to continue their education in this country,” DeGioia, an advocate of the DREAM Act, said during a teleconference with leaders of higher education and immigrant advocates.

The DREAM Act represented a defining moment in the national fight for both immigration and education reform by offering about 726,000 undocumented students who have lived in the United States prior to age 16 the opportunity to gain permanent citizenship following graduation from a four-year college or two years of military service. Previously, only documented immigrants could gain citizenship through military service.

“[This is] an opportunity for more people to contribute to our country’s prosperity . [and a chance to] stop punishing innocent young people for the accidental circumstances of their birth,” Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in a teleconference on Tuesday.

Obama administration officials praised the act for its ability to help the United States educate its way to a better economy and help the United States become the nation with the highest proportion of college-educated citizens by 2020.

The intensity of national debate has been echoed on the Hilltop.

“[The DREAM Act] is Harry Reid’s military smokescreen for incremental steps toward amnesty [.] rewarding law-breaking aliens with accelerated pathways to citizenship,” College Republicans Chief of Staff Kevin Preskenis (COL ’12) said.

College Democrats advocated for the DREAM Act as early as last spring when the group hosted a student-run forum featuring a panel discussion led by President of the Jesuit Association of Colleges and Universities Rev. Charles Currie, S.J., Georgetown student Juan Gomez (MSB ’11), and United We Dream Network board member Matias Ramos. Speaking from personal experience, Gomez and Ramos discussed the challenges of being undocumented immigrants, while Currie highlighted the key role Jesuit universities play in the fight for social justice in higher education.

The act’s history of bipartisan backing in previous votes left many proponents puzzled about Tuesday’s lack of support. College Democrats President Brian Woll (COL ’12) points to the impending midterm elections as a possible factor, stating that several moderate Republicans may have reversed their votes due to constituent sentiment in their home states.

“Republicans were able to effectively kill the bill without actually taking a stance on the DREAM Act. They essentially hid behind a procedural technicality,” Gomez said.

Woll predicted that Tuesday’s results will only galvanize further student motivation. Before the vote, the College Democrats collected 300 signatures on a petition focusing on the bipartisan nature and narrow focus of the bill. Woll planned to send the petition to the six Georgetown alumni currently serving in the Senate, three of whom are Republicans.

“We gathered 100 signatures in one afternoon of tabling, and 200 more online over the course of one weekend,” said Woll, indicating the high level of support the DREAM Act has here on campus.

While the future of the act is uncertain, Gomez conceded that passing the act on its own is not the most pragmatic option.

“The most natural route would be to attach it to a defense measure, like what just occurred, but that won’t occur until after the [midterm] elections,” Gomez said.”

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