|Senator Durbin said, “All [the students] want is a chance.’’|
WASHINGTON — Senate Democrats renewed an uphill push yesterday for legislation that would give young illegal immigrants a shot at legal status by arguing that the hundreds of thousands affected would improve the nation’s economy and security.
The legislation, known as the DREAM Act, would allow students who came to the United States as children to gain permanent residency if they go to college or serve in the military, plus meet other conditions such as passing a criminal background check. The bill’s sponsors are unlikely to gain the votes necessary to pass it.
Several dozen students in their caps and gowns attended the hearing, despite their status as illegal immigrants. Senator Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, introduced several who had demonstrated excellence in many facets of life but were unable to gain employment in their chosen field.
“They want to serve the country they love,’’ Durbin said. “All they want is a chance.’’
Senator John Cornyn, a Texas Republican, said lawmakers from both parties have compassion for the students who would be helped by the legislation, but he said it was important to get the details right. He pointed to changes he believes are necessary for the bill before it can gain more Republican support. He noted that students could eventually gain citizenship even if they committed serious misdemeanors, such as driving while intoxicated or certain drug offenses.
The biggest stumbling block, he said, was the government’s failure to do what it has promised to do in securing the borders and enforcing illegal hiring practices.
Senator Dianne Feinstein, a Democrat from California, said the nation’s borders are the most secure they’ve been over the past decade.
“To use border security as a reason not to give these young people a chance makes no sense to me,’’ Feinstein said.