Flagstaff, AZ – The U-S Senate adjourns today. One of the many pieces of controversial legislation that lawmakers fought over during this session was the DREAM Act, which would let children of illegal immigrants become legal residents if they attend college or serve in the U-S military for two years. Arizona Public Radio's Laurel Morales reports.
Saray, who only wanted to use her middle name, is taking a break between classes at Coconino Community College.
She says her mom brought her to the US when she was 5-years-old from a poor village in Mexico.
"At first I thought I was any regular kid. I didn't really know it was wrong to cross the border. I would say around age 12 I started to know what it meant and what the experience would bring."
Saray has lived in Flagstaff for 18 years but pays out of state tuition because she is undocumented. She's studying criminology and hopes to become a lawyer someday. She's doubtful that the DREAM Act will ever pass but still hopeful. She'd be able to apply for federal loans and scholarships. And after graduation she knows the chances of getting a job would be a lot greater.
"It would change my life completely. I would probably cry of happiness knowing I could get a job with actual social security. I could get a driver's license. I could travel. I could go back and forth to Mexico."
The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act would grant citizenship to immigrants younger than 36 who were brought to the United States illegally as children, lived here for at least five years, and served in the U-S military or completed at least two years of college.
Last week Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada planned to add the DREAM Act to a sweeping defense bill. But the motion failed to go to a vote. Arizona Republican Senator John McCain, who has supported the DREAM Act in the past, called Reid's attempt an election move to appeal to Hispanic voters.
"This is a blatant political ploy in order to try to galvanize the political base of the other side which is facing a losing election. That's why the majority leader said we would take up don't ask don't tell, take up the DREAM Act and then address the other issues after the election."
Polls show Senate Majority Leader Reid in a tight race against Republican Sharron Angle in Nevada. Hispanics make up about a quarter of the voters in Reid's home state.
The DREAM Act has been derailed several times since it was first introduced in 2001 by Utah Republican Senator Orin Hatch and Illinois Democrat Dick Durbin. But in a press conference after the vote Durbin promised to push for the bill when Congress reconvenes after the November election.
"We're not giving up we're going to continue to fight for the DREAM Act. I'm here to tell you this is not the end of the fight. It's just the beginning. This is a matter of justice and you know it. The students who were brought to the United States as children had no voice in that decision but they grew up here. The US is their home and in America we do not punish children for the actions of their parents. "
About two million of the nearly 11 million undocumented immigrants could be eligible for citizenship under the bill. But the Migration Policy Institute, a non partisan group, estimates that less than half would actually take advantage of the proposal.
For Arizona Public Radio I'm Laurel Morales in Flagstaff.