After months of campaigning by immigrant advocacy groups and students, including a massive push leading up to Saturday’s U.S. Senate vote, a bill that would have offered a pathway toward legal status for hundreds of thousands of young illegal immigrants failed to leap a procedural hurdle, effectively killing the legislation.
The last-ditch effort to persuade senators to support the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors, or DREAM Act, came five votes short of the 60 needed to move the bill forward.
(In a rare move, Congress passed earlier in the week private immigration bills to allow two Japanese citizens to live in the United States.)
President Obama and administration officials, such as cabinet members and high-ranking bureaucrats whose respective agencies oversee legal immigration or enforce immigration laws, called for lawmakers to support the bill. Failing to convince the Senate to do so after the House passed the bill earlier in the month leaves Obama’s immigration policy in disarray, the New York Times reported.
The evening before the vote, the White House organized a press conference with top officials from Customs and Border Protection, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement who spoke in support of the DREAM Act.
Addressing Republicans concerns that the bill would lead to chain migration and that border security should be prioritized over any law reform, David Aguilar, CBP’s deputy commissioner, said that “At no point in history has the border been as secure as it is today.”
(Days before the press conference a Border Patrol agent in Arizona was shot and killed during a shootout with suspected bandits.)
In the same press conference with Aguilar, ICE Director John Morton said the agency would still push for deportations, but immigration officers will continue to focus on immigrants who have committed crimes or are deemed a public threat.
“Were the DREAM Act not to pass we would handle the situation as we do now,” Morton said, according to The Associated Press. He said the DREAM Act would be “entirely consistent” with the Obama administration’s immigration enforcement policies.
Earlier in the day, ICE released after a month in detention an 18-year-old Guatemalan student living in Ohio. The agency gave Bernard Pastor a one-year “deferred action” reprieve from deportation. Although the DREAM Act failed —and with a Republican-controlled House such legislation appears to have slim chances of coming up before the 2012 election — advocates vowed to make it a campaign issue.
(A number of administration officials, perhaps seeing the light dimming on immigration reform, have recently left government, including top immigration service attorney Roxana Bacon and the Homeland Security Department’s No. 2 attorney David Martin, among others.)
Some Republicans recognize that Latinos have been alienated by the GOP and “ugly dust-ups” over illegal immigration that contributed significantly to Jerry Brown’s thumping of Meg Whitman in the California gubernatorial race.
Immigration enforcement, however, still means jobs and money to many communities, such as Etowah County, Ala. ICE has agreed to keep some 300 immigrants detained there until June 30, 2011, instead of re-locating them this year after facing political pressure from Alabama’s Congressional delegation. As the Gadsden Times opined, “The Etowah County Detention Center is more than a jail, it’s practically a small industry for this county. It’s worth fighting for.”
Palm Beach County is in talks with ICE to detain immigrants there. Massachusetts State Police will participate after all in ICE’s controversial Secure Communities program to identify immigrants arrested for crimes. Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick did an about-face on an earlier decision to bar state troopers from enforcing immigration law.
Immigration officials settled a federal lawsuit in San Diego by agreeing to expand medical care at an area detention facility.
A Federal District Judge in Connecticut ruled Julie Myers, a former ICE chief, and other senior officials can be held liable in a civil rights lawsuit that alleges immigration officers violated constitutional protections during raids in New Haven in 2007. Meanwhile, a Federal District Judge in Arizona tossed out another lawsuit challenging Arizona’s controversial immigration law known as SB 1070.
Arizona legislators are ramping up their efforts to tackle another controversy – birthright citizenship — and are coordinating with lawmakers in other states.
Meanwhile, new census data show that immigrants increasingly settled in rural and suburban areas over the last decade over more traditional landing spots – cities.
Overall, immigration to the United States has resumed, according to a Brookings Institution study, The New York Times reported, bouncing back from a decades-low dip during the recession.
And, in other news, drug trafficking continues. Immigration agents in Nogales, Arizona found a tunnel that burrowed from Mexico to a metered parking space in the United States, where parked vehicles were loaded with marijuana loaded through a hole cut in the bottom. Roughly a ton of marijuana was seized from a van.