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Obama Wades Into DREAM Act Debate

Leaders of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus emerged from a Tuesday meeting with President Barack Obama with renewed hope for action on a controversial immigration bill in the lame-duck session.

CHC Chairwoman Nydia Velázquez said after the meeting that Obama “assured us he will help build bipartisan support necessary for passage” of the DREAM Act in the coming weeks. The New York Democrat attended the White House sit-down with CHC colleagues Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) and Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.).

While publicly touting other priorities for the lame-duck session, the president has been quietly lending support to action on the DREAM Act, which would give children who are illegal immigrants a path to citizenship if they go to college or join the military.

“The president and the CHC leaders believe that, before adjourning, Congress should approve the DREAM Act. This legislation has traditionally enjoyed support from Democratic and Republican lawmakers and would give young people who were brought as minors to the United States by their parents the opportunity to earn their citizenship by pursuing a college degree or through military service,” reads a White House statement on the meeting.

Immigration reform advocates have stepped up calls for action since Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) vowed in the throes of his re-election campaign to take up the measure in the lame-duck session. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has also signaled an interest in moving the measure.

But it remains to be seen whether Senate Democratic leaders have the will or the time to take on the weighty issue as the year draws to a close. A senior Senate Democratic aide said there is “nothing definitive” in terms of the DREAM Act being set on the agenda, “but we are still working towards a vote.”

Latino lawmakers have been careful to frame the DREAM Act as a steppingstone to their top priority, a comprehensive immigration overhaul. But such an overhaul has next to no chance of advancing in the near term.

Gutierrez said he sees the DREAM Act “as a down payment on comprehensive reform and we will continue working towards comprehensive immigration reform today, tomorrow, and until it passes. But I will not pass up the chance to save a million or more children who grew up in the U.S., who know no other country, and who are threatened with deportation unless we act.”

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