UPDATE: DREAM Act falls on first hurdle 

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s initial attempt to grant back-door amnesty to children of illegal immigrants went down to defeat this afternoon as a motion to invoke cloture failed in the Senate by a vote of 56-43. Sixty votes were needed to end debate and proceed to SB 3454, the Defense Department reauthorization bill.

Reid has announced he will attach the DREAM Act as an amendment to the military spending bill.

In a Sept. 16 conference call, the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) targeted lame duck Senators Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Bob Bennett, R-Utah, as part of their overall strategy to push the DREAM Act through Congress, The Examiner has learned. But the strategy backfired, at least temporarily. Murkowski didn’t vote and Bennett voted “no.”

All the other nine Republican senators LULAC specifically targeted –  John McCain, R-Ariz., George LeMeiux, R-Fla., Sam Brownback, R-Kan., Susan Collins, R-Me., Olympia Snowe, R-Me., Judd Gregg, R-N.H., George Voinovich, R-Ohio, Kay Bailey Hutchinson, R-Tex., and Dick Lugar, R-Ind., all voted against cloture.

During the conference call, LULAC national executive director Brent Wilkes said that 360,000 illegal immigrants graduate from American high schools each year. The DREAM Act would allow them to enroll in state colleges and universities at in-state tuition rates, even though as non-legal residents they do not qualify for the tuition break. They could then use their taxpayer-funded education or two years’ service in the military to earn legal permanent resident status, even though only legal residents are currently allowed to enlist.

The DREAM Act is highly controversial since passage would inevitably lead to increased tuition for middle-class families who are already struggling to put their children through school.

Turnovers in Congress are imperiling LULAC’s goal because many Republican candidates are running on pledges of no amnesty for and no legalization until the borders are sealed. Meanwhile, Hispanics who voted for President Obama in 2008 on his promise to pass comprehensive immigration legislation are becoming increasingly critical of the White House – which needs them to come out to the polls in November.

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