Today's vote was seen as the bill's last chance for passage before a new Republican majority takes over in the House and gains six seats in the Senate, making future passage of the DREAM Act unlikely for years. The DREAM Act would provide a path to citizenship for undocumented youth with a clean criminal record who commit two years to the military or to college. These are today's developments:
--9:00pm ET: The DREAM Act has passed the House, 216-198. Pelosi announces the news with her signature grin and to bursts of cheers and applause. Tomorrow the DREAM Act will move on to the Senate for a vote at 11am ET.
--8:51pm ET: Current vote count stand at 173-135. Twenty-five Democrats have voted against the DREAM Act.
--8:48pm ET: Voting has begun. So far two Republicans have voted for the DREAM Act, 19 against. The vote count is 64 to 20.
--8:35pm ET: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi took to the floor to offer her strong support of the DREAM Act, invoking American ideals of hope and determination, and praising immigrants past and present who formed the foundation of the country. And then she referenced Sec. of Defense Robert Gates, who has praised the DREAM Act because it will help the U.S. military's expansion and recruitment experts.
"The DREAM Act itself symbolizes what it is to be American," Pelosi said. "It's about equality, it's about opportunity, it's about the future."
"This isn't about a motion to recommit," Pelosi said, referencing Lundgren's earlier remarks. "This is about a commitment to our future. This is about a recognition about what these young people can mean for our country."
--8:15pm ET: California Republican Congressman Dan Lundgren spends his floor time waxing nostalgic about his involvement in helping craft IRCA, the 1986 law that introduced employer sanctions but also legalized nearly 3 million people who were already living in the country, and people who did farm work. Lundgren said he would support working with Democrats on the issue, but took issue with the process of the night.
"At least let us bring in the opportunity for amendments," Lundgren said. "We've had the opportunity for months to bring something to the floor. All I would say is: this is an issue that many of us on this side of the aisle would work with you on but this is not the night and this is not the way."
--7:44pm ET: Censure clearly has not diminished New York Rep. Charlie Rangel's fighting spirit. "Thank God Native Americans didn't have these immigration laws when they were"--Rangel lifted his arms to make air quotes--"discovered, you know, by other people."
--7:38pm ET: California Rep. Dana Rohrbacher does the anti-immigrant nativists of Costa Mesa proud by inventing a new insult for the DREAM Act. Rohrbacher called the DREAM Act "affirmative action amnesty" for undocumented immigrants, and said that any DREAMer who "happens to be of a racial or ethnic minority, which a vast majority of them are" would gain access to state and federal programs that, "would not only put illegal immigrants on par with American citizens"--horror upon horror!--"but would in many cases put them ahead of most American citizens and legal immigrants."
--7:19pm ET: If you stepped away from CSPAN just now you missed a quick, stirring, strong speech from Texas Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee in support of the DREAM Act. She said:
These children have not broken they law. These are are not criminals. The only nightmare I can imagine is the nightmare of violating the rights of these individuals who want an opportunity to serve America. First of all they have to be in the country for five years already. And they cannot change their status for another ten years...Do we violate our rights and our beliefs about we all are created equal?
And so I ask my colleagues to support a DREAM Act that invests in America, that allows people to serve America. It is not amnesty. It is people wanting to serve this country, pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America. Stand for what is right. Vote for the DREAM Act. Believe in our values. We are all created equal.
--7:08pm ET: California congresswoman Zoe Lofgren spoke in defense of the DREAM Act.
"We hear a lot about the rule of law," Lofgren said. "I think it's worth remembering that we write the laws in this country and we need to address this issue...I recommend that we help these innocent children who did nothing wrong."
Both Reps. Lamar Smith and Steve King spoke again attacking the DREAM Act. Smith said: "This bill prevents Americans from getting jobs since millions of illegal immigrants will be eligible to work legally in the U.S. American workers should not have to compete with illegal workers for scarce jobs."
Rep. John Conyers countered, and said: "The DREAM Act will not take jobs from Americans--all major unions support the Dream Act."
--6:47pm ET: The House narrowly approved a rule, 211-208, that allows the House to take up the DREAM Act for debate and vote on it. Fifteen congresspeople did not vote. This is making DREAM Act advocates nervous--the DREAM Act could need as many as 218 votes to pass. The House will now take up the DREAM Act for an hour's worth of debate before voting on the bill.
--6:35pm ET: The House has wrapped up its appropriations vote and is preparing to take up the vote on the rules of debate on the DREAM Act in a few minutes.
--6:01pm ET: Congressional staffers suggest that the Senate may be close to reaching a deal to put off the remaining two cloture votes, which includes the DREAM Act, until tomorrow morning. The House continues to discuss the DREAM Act.
--5:37pmET: Republican Congressman Lamar Smith has begun the House assault on the DREAM Act. He said in his floor remarks:
[The DREAM Act] hurts American workers, rewards lawbreakers. The nation has an unemployment rate of 9.8 percent, has exceeded 9.5 percent for 16 months, the longest stretch since the Great Depression. The DREAM Act makes illegal immigrants eligible to work legally in the United States.
Why are Democrats doing this to American workers? This Congress should focus on creating jobs for Americans, not promoting policies that cause unemployment. I am sympathetic to the young illegal immigrant children who were brought here by their parents. Because their parents disregarded America's this country's immigration laws they are in a difficult posiotin. However this bill actually rewards the very illegal imigrant parents who knowingly violated our laws.
Smith went on to say that the DREAM Act would encourage more people to come to the country, lured by the narrowly tailored immigration bill, and would protect "criminals." Smith criticized provisions of the DREAM Act that are not actually in the actual bill. His remarks echoed those of Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions earlier today, who has taken to beating up on the DREAM Act with plenty of misinformation and fear-mongering.
Georgia Congressman Phil Gingrey later said the DREAM Act would encourage fraud, exploitation and "chain migration," where young DREAM Act youth could sponsor family members for immigration "with no numerical cap."
"In fact, they could each bring in something like 179 other individuals."
However, under the actual DREAM Act language, DREAM Act-eligible youth would have to wait a dozen years before they could sponsor immediate family members. They must already wait ten years under a "conditional immigrant status" before they get green cards, another three years before they're eligible for citizenship.
And young people would have to pass thorough background checks and would have to submit biometric data to the Department of Homeland Security. In addition, anyone who committed marriage fraud, voter fraud, or any other kind of immigration violation, would be immediately ineligible for the DREAM Act.
--5:10pm ET: The Senate has now voted on two of their four cloture motions of the day--one that would have given a $250 check to Social Security recipients--and both have failed. The Senate is now on hold until 6:30pm ET.
--4:47pm ET: The Senate has struck a last-minute deal to delay the cloture vote for DREAM while they wait for the House to consider their version of it. The Senate cloture vote, technically, is not a vote on the bill itself, but a vote to close debate on it and move the bill to a vote. While many DREAM Act advocates estimate that they have the necessary majority to pass the bill, 60 votes are required to clear cloture, and so the cloture vote is the most crucial.
The House is expected to vote on their version of the DREAM Act at 6:30pm ET, and is right now discussing its appropriations bill for 2011.
--4:14pm ET: Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin took to the Senate floor and gave an impassioned appeal for the DREAM Act. He ended his remarks this way:
I urge my colleagues to really ignore and set aside some of the arguments that have been made that don't stand up to scrutiny. Understand that what we are doing is giving them a chance but holding them to a standard which very few of us could live up to.
In the name of justice, in the name of fairness, give thse young people a chance. A chance to be part of this great country. Every single one of us but for those who were Native Americans long before the white poeple arrived, came to this country as immigrants. Not this generation perhaps but in previous generations. Those who are African American may have come against their will, but the fact is they are here, and they are what makes America the great nation that it is.
Our diversity is our strength, and these young people are as strong as they come. Let's pass the DREAM Act. Let's make these dreams come true. Let's say once and for all, this just nation not only has room, but welcomes all of this talent that has come to our shores.
-- The Senate is set to take up S. 3992, a new version introduced by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Sen. Dick Durbin with compromises designed to win Republican support. The House version, H.R. 6497, was introduced yesterday by Reps. Lincoln Diaz-Balart and Doug Berman and was modeled after S. 3992.
-- The Congressional Budget Office today released its score on H.R. 6497 and concluded that the bill would reduce the national deficit by $2.2 billion over the next decade. DREAM Act opponents and advocates continue to disagree over the costs of the bill; Sen. Steve King has called the DREAM Act a "$20 billion giveaway to illegal aliens."
DREAM Act advocates say that people like King have grossly inflated the cost, counting in the difference between possible DREAM Act benefits like allowing undocumented immigrants to pay in-state tuition at public universities, and the out-of-state tuition Republicans think they should pay, and counting it as a loss.
-This morning the White House released its SAP, or Statement of Administration Policy, announcing its support for S. 3992. The statement read:
The Administration strongly supports Senate passage of S. 3992, which would address the immigration status of certain individuals who came to the United States as children, know this Nation as their home, and, by their actions, are contributing to the prosperity and security of the United States...Young people who have spent much of their lives in the United States and want to improve their lives and their Nation by pursuing higher education or defending the United States as members of the Armed Forces should be given this opportunity to earn legal status.
-DREAM Act advocates continue their lobbying today, and are flooding the Senate switchboards with phone calls. Yesterday, students presented gigantic $1.4 billion checks to members of Congress, symbolizing the amount of money the DREAM Act would save the country, according to the CBO estimates of S. 3992.