Illinois Sen.-elect Mark Kirk, R-Ill., celebrates as he speaks to his supporters after defeating Democratic nominee Alexi Giannoulias Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2010, in Wheeling, Ill. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
With a vote of 216-198, the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday passed legislation to give foreign-born youngsters brought to the U.S. illegally a shot at legal status.
The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act now heads to the U.S. Senate, where it faces a big challenge getting the 60 votes it needs to pass.
Sen. Dick Durbin was an original co-sponsor of the bill, but newly-installed Sen. Mark Kirk said in his recent campaign that he didn't support it and vowed to study it.
The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights has been pressing for his support.
"Part of his campaign was that he was moderate on social issues," said ICIRR spokeswoman Catherine Salgado. "He's representing our state. He should be able to transmit this feeling -- the people of Illinois want the DREAM Act to pass."
Kirk has not announced what he will do, but it appears he will line up with the Republican Caucus.
The legislation would grant citizenship to children who enter the United States illegally when they were younger than 15 and who have lived in the country for at least five years. They'd also have to be high school graduates.
"The DREAM Act embodies the core American values of opportunity and service," began a statement received from Rep. Mike Quigley moments after the vote. "Its passage is a testament to our continued commitment to these ideals, as well as a belief in our children -- children who only want to better this country and protect it."
Along with Quigley, Illinois representatives voting for the bill included Melissa Bean, Bill Foster, Luis Gutierrez, Phil Hare, Deb Halvorson, Jesse Jackson Jr., Bobby Rush, and Jan Schakowsky. Reps. Judy Biggert, Jerry Costello, Tim Johnson, Dan Lipinski, Donald Manzullo, Aaron Schock and John Shimkus were opposed.
Seven House Republicans also voted for the bill.
Opponents contend the measure is a form of amnesty and would cost too much.