Durbin, the Senate Majority Whip and the son of a Lithuanian immigrant, is the Senate’s leading spokesman in favor of the bill, which will allow the children of undocumented immigrants to become citizens if they attend college or join the military. After the DREAM Act passed the House of Representatives on Wednesday, Durbin held a press conference with Rep. Luis Gutierrez.
“Today, on Capitol Hill, we will have a chance to make a dream come true, a dream that tens of thousands of young people across America have had for years, a dream that they will have a chance to become part of the future of America,” Durbin said. “We are going to call the DREAM Act today, and gives our colleagues in the House and the Senate a chance to make their dream come true, to give them a chance to serve in the military to protect our great nation, to give them a chance to pursue an education that will make the United States a stronger nation.”
Pointing out his own immigrant roots, Durbin predicted the young people who become citizens as part of the DREAM Act will become “doctors, lawyers, engineers, teachers, even congressmen and senators.”
The bill passed the House on a mostly party-line vote, but will need the support of two Republicans to overcome a filibuster in the Senate. One of those Republicans will not be Mark Kirk. During his debates with Alexi Giannoulias, Kirk refused to endorse DREAM Act, saying the U.S. needs to focus on securing the border first.
“I think that first we have to restore the trust of the American people in the ability to administer our own border,” Kirk said in the Oct. 19 debate. “I think that if we restore that trust, if we close down the border. If we make sure that for the homeland security of the United States, we accomplish a fundamental mission of understanding who is coming into our country. We reward legal immigrants who have played by the rules, then we open up the space for the rest of the debate. But until you restore that trust, I don’t think you can move forward and we should restore that trust.”
Kirk refused to say how he’d vote on the DREAM Act, but today, Kirk spokesman Lance Trover says the freshman will be a “nay.”
As a newbie senator whose party needs every vote to sustain a filibuster, Kirk is in no position to buck the Republican line. Kirk has become ever more partisan since he began aiming for the Senate, but the same thing happened to Durbin, who began his career as a pro-life congressman, and ended up as a senator who voted against banning partial birth abortion. That’s how you climb the leadership ladder in Washington.