Local students watch Republicans in the U.S. Senate block the DREAM Act at Yambo restaurant in Miami on Saturday.
A controversial bill that would have granted legal status to hundreds of thousands of
undocumented students was blocked once again in the Senate Saturday.
The 55-41 vote in of the so-called DREAM Act was five votes shy of moving onto the
Senate floor, effectively killing its chances of passing this year.
Immigration activists and undocumented students, some of whom drove overnight from
Miami to Washington, reacted with frustration on hearing the final vote. Dozens gathered
at Yambo Restaurant in Little Havana to watch the procedural vote on C-SPAN.
"I don't get it. This is disappointing, but we have to keep fighting," said
22-year-old Adrián Escarate, who was 3 when his family immigrated illegally to the U.S.
from Chile. "I don't know Chile. The only country I know is this one."
It was the second time this year that the Senate voted on the bill, which was first
brought to Congress a decade ago.
Florida's senators voted with the their respective parties. Democrat Bill Nelson
voted in favor of the bill while his Republican counterpart George LeMieux voted
The bill would create a path to citizenship for undocumented students who immigrated
illegally to the United States before they were 16 and who have lived here for at least
five years. It would apply only to university students and those who commit to serving
at least two years in the military.
The House of Representatives approved the measure earlier this month, 216 to 198.
Senate leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, said in a press conference after the
vote that the Republican Party "will pay for this'' in 2012 by losing votes in the
Texas Republican Kay Bailey Hutchinson, who opposed the bill, said in a statement
that "such serious legislation should be brought up in a time frame that allows for
consideration, deliberation and consensus through full debate and amendments''.
Bob Menendez, D-N.J., told El Nuevo Herald that chances are slim for any immigration
reform to pass next year, when Republicans take control of the House.
"I don't want to raise any false hopes. It's not say there is no hope but I have to
be realistic," he said.
In recent months, the issue has mobilized many young activists in South Florida,
including a group of undocumented students who walked to Washington in May to raise
support and publicity.
During a "vote pary'' this morning in Little Havana, various students and immigrant
rights advocates spoke about their hopes for the bill's passage. Among them was Raul
Gil, 21, of Peru.
Though he immigrated illegally with his family to the United States when he was 13,
he didn't know he was undocumented until three years later.
"I remember wanting to get a car and my license, and I couldn't," Gil said. "I
asked my mom and she explained that we're undocumented."