As the U.S. Senate appeared poised to move ahead on a defense spending bill, Education Secretary Arne Duncan on Tuesday wrote to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and his GOP counterpart, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), to ask that they push for the passage of the DREAM Act, which would create a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who entered the country as children and went on to postsecondary education or military service. In his letter, Duncan said the act would "stop the punishment of innocent young people for the actions of their parents, and give them the chance to earn their legal status." The act, he added, would "play an important part in our efforts to meet the Administration's goals of having the highest proportion of college graduates in the world by 2020." Dozens of college presidents have spoken out in favor of the DREAM Act in recent months.
President Obama last week voiced his support for Congress to pass the DREAM Act as a standalone measure, after Reid and other Democrats made clear that they wanted action on it before November's Congressional elections. But motion stalled Tuesday afternoon as Republicans and some Democrats voted to continue debate on the bill, which Reid has said he plans to also amend with language that would repeal the federal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy pertaining to the military's treatment of gay and lesbian members of the armed forces. The DREAM Act was first introduced in Congress in 2001.