Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2010 | 2:06 p.m.
WASHINGTON — Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced plans Tuesday to hold a vote on a measure that would let young immigrants who came into the United States illegally become citizens – bucking a long-held Democratic strategy that immigration reforms should be dealt with as a comprehensive package.
The DREAM Act would allow young, undocumented immigrants who attend college or enroll in the military – provided they came to the U.S. before age 16 and have lived here for more than five years – to obtain green cards and ultimately, citizenship.
The legislation has been kicking around Congress for about 10 years and has received bipartisan support in the past. But previous attempts to pass the DREAM Act as an independent measure have also faced opposition, both from Republicans –- who as a party do not support the legislation –- and Democrats who argue that addressing the legislation on its own saps energy from passing a more comprehensive immigration bill.
Reid seemed to address those concerns as he made his announcement Tuesday, explaining that it would be impossible to take up comprehensive immigration reform this year.
“I tried so very, very hard, but those Republicans we had in the last legislature have left us,” he said.
Reid said he would attach the DREAM Act as an amendment to a defense spending bill that the Senate is expected to take up next week. The bill already is being used as a vehicle for another controversial piece of legislation – the repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, which the Obama administration has advocated repealing, but Republicans oppose.
Reid said he had not coordinated his plans to include the DREAM Act in that package with the White House, but wouldn’t speculate about whether he has the votes to get it passed.