* Obama vows to push again for 'Dream Act'
* Young Hispanics watch vote in Senate Gallery
(Updates with Obama comments, reaction)
By Andy Sullivan and Donna Smith
WASHINGTON, Dec 18 A controversial measure
providing a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants who
came to the United States as children was dealt a death blow in
the U.S. Senate on Saturday by Republicans who said it would
reward illegal activity.
The so-called "Dream Act" passed the U.S. House of
Representatives earlier this month, but it failed to gain the
60 votes necessary to overcome opposition in the 100-member
President Barack Obama and Democratic supporters vowed to
push again for the measure in the new Congress that will be
seated in January.
"It is disappointing that common sense did not prevail
today," Obama said in a statement. "But my administration will
not give up on the DREAM Act, or on the important business of
fixing our broken immigration system."
The legislation would have provided legal residency to
young people who came to the United States illegally before age
16 and who graduated from high school, completed two years of
college or military service and had no criminal record.
"They believe in their heart of hearts this is home, this
is the only country they have ever known. All they're asking
for is a chance to serve this nation," said Democratic Senator
Dick Durbin, the measure's sponsor.
The measure was backed by Hispanic activists, who have been
disappointed by Democrats' failure to deliver on Obama's
promise of comprehensive immigration reform.
"The Senate has made a huge mistake today. It has failed to
recognize the contributions of thousands upon thousands of
bright, creative young people that love this country like their
own home," Jorge-Mario Cabrera, an activist with the Coalition
for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, told Reuters.
Maria Rodriguez, and activist with the California DREAM
Network, said: "The future doctors, lawyers, astronauts, chefs,
and attorneys waiting for this vote to become a reality will
continue to remain in the shadow and afraid to show America
their beauty and skills."
With dozens of college-age Hispanics watching from the
gallery, the measure failed on a largely party-line vote of
55-41. Although it gained a majority, the bill needed to reach
a 60-vote threshold to advance in the 100-seat Senate.
Republicans said the bill would have made it more difficult
to enforce immigration laws.
"The American people are pleading with Congress to enforce
our laws, but this bill is a law that at its fundamental core
is a reward for illegal activity," said Republican Senator Jeff
The bill's failure to pass the Senate means the legislation
dies with the 111th Congress. Supporters will face a steep
uphill battle when the new Congress is seated on Jan. 5 and
Republicans control the House and have a greater say in the
In his presidential campaign in 2008, Obama pledged to push
for an immigration overhaul, boosting border security and
offering steps to legal status for many of the nearly 11
million illegal immigrants living in the United States. His
administration and Congress have so far failed to agree on
(Reporting by Donna Smith, Andy Sullivan, and Tim Gaynor in
Arizona; editing by Eric Walsh and Mohammad Zargham)