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Weekly Diaspora: After DREAM Act defeat, advocates fight for educational equality

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The Senate failed to pass the DREAM Act Saturday, as Democrats fell five votes short of the 60 needed to advance the bill. The final vote was 55-41. While a Republican filibuster diminished the bill’s chances of success, five Democrats sealed the measure’s fate. Max Baucus (D-MT), Kay Hagan (D-NC), Ben Nelson (D-NE), Mark Pryor (D-AR) and Jon Tester (D-MT) crossed party lines to vote against the bill that would have created a conditional path to legalization for immigrant youth who attend college or serve in the military.

President Obama, who came out in full support of the DREAM Act in the 11th hour, wasted no time speaking out against the bill’s defeat. As ColorLines’ Julianne Hing reports, the president called the Senate’s failure to pass the measure “incredibly disappointing,” adding that “There was simply no reason not to pass this important legislation.” Obama further promised that his administration would continue supporting the measure. Hing aptly notes, however, that the president’s support belies the Department of Homeland Security’s resolve to continue deporting DREAM Act-eligible youth in the event of the measure’s failure.

DREAM Act defeat sets stage for anti-immigrant agenda

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and other congressional Democrats had hoped to pass the DREAM Act before Republicans assume control of the House in January and curtail future attempts at progressive immigration reform.

Mother Jones’ Suzy Khimm argues that the DREAM Act’s defeat sets the stage for incoming GOP leaders who have promised to crack down on immigration. Rep. Steve King (R-IA), who will likely chair the House Judiciary Committee in 2011, has already spoken out about his plans to move forward with a number of anti-immigrant measures. Among them: A birthright citizenship bill and an employee sanctions bill that would requires the Internal Revenue Service to share information with the Department of Homeland Security (a la Secure Communities).

Whether House Republicans will be able to get such controversial legislation through the Democratic-controlled Senate, however, remains to be seen. In the meantime, many reform advocates are turning their attention to legislation at the state-level, where a number of incoming nativist governors are vowing to push a plethora of severely anti-immigrant measures.

What’s next?

The Media Consortium recently sat down with Yana Kuchinoff of Truthout to discuss the DREAM Act’s failure in the Senate, and what will be next for the legislation in the next Congress. Kuchinoff says that although congressional action is important, the growing strength of grassroots and activist organizations are likely to play a major role in the bill’s future.

 

Public education still a minefield for undocumented students

The DREAM Act’s bitter defeat is all the more unfortunate as an increasing number of state-level laws seek to deny undocumented youth access to education. As I wrote in a special report for Campus Progress, Arizona is leading that charge with the cavalier passage of several anti-immigrant and arguably anti-education measures. In addition to being the first state to deny undocumented youth in-state tuition and public funding (Colorado and Georgia have since followed suit), recent bans on equal opportunity and ethnic studies have made education a minefield for undocumented and minority students. Now, with state senator Russell Pearce (R) assuming the role of senate president, the crack down on Latino youth threatens to intensify—and spread across state lines.

In this feverish climate, many immigrant rights advocates are re-focusing their resources on fighting for educational equality at the state level. Chris Thomas at the Public News Services reports that a chief concern is passing tuition equality legislation for undocumented students. While 10 states have passed laws ensuring that undocumented residents receive in-state tuition at colleges and universities, Arizona, Colorado and Georgia have passed restrictive measures denying them that privilege.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about immigration by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Diaspora for a complete list of articles on immigration issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, and health care issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, and The Pulse<. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

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