Sen. Reid Pushes Amendment to Defense Bill That Would Allow Illegal Aliens to Attend State Colleges, Get Amnesty

By Edwin Mora | September 15, 2010 | 4:48 PM EDT

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada speaks about the Democrats’ push to pass a health care bill at a news conference on Capitol Hill on Thursday, March 11, 2010. (AP Photo/Harry Hamburg)

( - Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said he intends to bring the DREAM Act as an amendment to the Defense Authorization bill expected to be taken up by the Senate next week. He said Congress is unable to pass comprehensive immigration reform because Republicans who supported it such legislation during the last session “left us.”

“I think it’s really important that we move forward on this legislation I’ve tried to work on," Reid said at a news conference on Tuesday. "I know we can’t do comprehensive immigration reform. I’ve tried to, I’ve tried so very, very hard. I’ve tried different iterations of this, but those Republicans we had in the last Congress have left us,” Reid said at the Capitol Hill news conference.

“We have large numbers of our military who are Hispanic. I think it’s really important that we move forward on this legislation,” he also said.

In explaining what the DREAM ACT does, Reid said, “Boys and girls who come to our country before age 16 and have been here for five years should be able to go to a state school. Remember they don’t get Pell grants and all this, but if they spend a couple of years and get their GED or if they have a high school diploma already and many of them do and they complete a couple of years of college, they can have their status readjusted and get a green card.”

He continued, “If they go into the military, serve for two years, they can get a green card. That’s what the DREAM Act is all about. Kids who grew up as Americans should be able to get their green cards after they go to college or serve in the military. So these are the two amendments [Repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and DREAM ACT] that I’ve told Senator McConnell that I think are essential to the defense authorization bill.”

In response to Reid’s proposal, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has said that adding the DREAM ACT will endanger the passage of the Defense Authorization bill.

"It's made it needlessly controversial," McConnell said. "I can't tell you right now how easy it will be to go forward with that bill, but it's certainly created an element of controversy that would not have been otherwise there."

“I sure hope so,” said Reid when asked if he had the votes to pass the DREAM ACT.

Defense Authorization bills often pass with bipartisan support. However, Reid has now added two thorny issues to that legislation – repealing the military’s “don’t ask don’t tell” policy and attaching the DREAM Act.

The DREAM Act (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act) would permit illegal immigrants who came to America before age 16, and have been in the states for at least five years, to acquire legal status if they pass background checks, attend college or serve in the military for at least two years.