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Dick Durbin, Democrats Continue DREAM Push

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

“Thousands of DREAMers will step forward, and I believe this will forever change the debate about immigration reform in America,” he said at CAP. “As America learns about the DREAMers in our midst — going to school with our children, praying with us in our churches, temples and mosques and ready to contribute their talent to getting our economy back on track — support for the DREAM Act will build and for comprehensive immigration reform.”

The Illinois Democrat has built a reputation for taking to the Senate floor to highlight the stories of the DREAM Act-eligible kids, and on Tuesday he gave a speech on the 50th individual to get the Durbin treatment.    

Nevertheless, prospects for a vote in the upcoming lame-duck session after the November elections are also highly unlikely, Durbin said, given opposition from the Republican-led House.

“The House won’t take anything up, so it’d just be an empty symbolic gesture,” Durbin said after his speech. “In a new Congress, we’ll see.”

However, Durbin is upbeat about building support for the measure and has been working with Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) to build a coalition.

“I’ve talked to a lot of Republican Senators, and I think we have a chance … to come back to a new Congress and address this again,” Durbin said.

In his speech, Durbin warned the CAP audience that a new president could repeal the Obama policy, which is just an executive order.

Asked whether he thinks presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney would repeal the proposal, Durbin said, “I think it would be a serious mistake if he did. I think public sentiment would be on the DREAMers. They followed the law, and to use that against them would be considered unfair.”

Some Republicans opposed to the White House policy and to the DREAM Act have said they might take their concerns to court.

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), who believes the president violated the Constitution with his edict, has threatened such a plan of action.

But Durbin dismissed the notion that the court would side with King

The policy states that “we are lowering the priority here, we are saying we are not going to deport these [DREAM Act students], we will dedicate our resources to those that may be a challenge or problem for our future,” Durbin said. “That is a clearly recognized principle of law. Congressman King, we know where he’s coming from, and he can continue this if he’d like, but after all that we’ve been through and all these DREAMers have been through, a court challenge is not going to slow us down one bit.”

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