House passes Dream Act

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Leslie Berestein Rojas/KPCC

Students at the UCLA Downtown Labor Center in Los Angeles react to news of the Dream Act victory in the House on Dec. 8, 2010. Many had spent the day there calling legislators.

The vote was close - 216 to 198. And when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the Dream Act has passed, the floor erupted in applause. But the victory for immigration activists is likely to be short lived.

The House debated the Dream Act as the sun went down and on into the evening. Republican Congressman Lamar Smith of Texas said the Dream Act would create more competition for American jobs. "This is a bill that gives amnesty to more than 2 million people who are in the country illegally," he said. "It encourages fraud and even more illegal immigration."

Democratic Congressman Howard Berman of Van Nuys is the author of the measure. He dismissed critics, saying they used “scare tactics and blatant inaccuracies.”

"In the end," he said, "this bill is less about the kids who deserve to benefit from this legislation than the country that will get the benefit of having them use their skills and their talents on our behalf."

The Dream Act would give legal status to undocumented college students and members of the armed forces.

The Senate begins debate first thing in the morning with a vote expected before lunch. The Dream Act is not expected to have the 60 votes needed to overcome the threat of a filibuster.

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