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President Expresses Disappointment Over Not Being Able to Pass DREAM Act

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At the end of a grueling lame-duck session, President Barack Obama spoke to the press about the session’s highs and lows.  He said that  his “biggest disappointment” was not being able to pass the DREAM Act, and pledged to keep fighting for immigration reform, “so we are a nation of laws and we are a nation of immigrants.  And at minimum, we should be able to get the DREAM Act done.”

Watch (and scroll down for the transcript):

Juan Carlos López — Q: Gracias, Presidente.  Feliz Navidad.

THE PRESIDENT:  Feliz Navidad.

Juan Carlos López — Q: Mr. President, you’ve been able to fulfill many of your promises.  Immigration reform isn’t one of them.  Just this last weekend, the DREAM Act failed cloture by five votes, and five Democrats didn’t support it; three Republicans did.  How are you going to be able to keep your promise when the Republicans control the House when you haven’t been able to do so with Democrats controlling both the Senate and the House, and when Republicans say they want to focus on border security before they do anything on immigration?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, let me say, there are a number of things that I wanted to get accomplished that we did not get accomplished.  For example, collective bargaining for firefighters and public safety workers — that was something that I thought was important.  We didn’t get it done.  I’m disappointed in that.  I think we’re still going to have to figure out how we work on energy, and that’s an area that I want to immediately engage with Republicans to figure out.

But I will tell you, maybe my biggest disappointment was this DREAM Act vote.  You know, I get letters from kids all across the country — came here when they were five, came here when they were eight; their parents were undocumented.  The kids didn’t know — kids are going to school like any other American kid, they’re growing up, they’re playing football, they’re going to class, they’re dreaming about college.  And suddenly they come to 18, 19 years old and they realize even though I feel American, I am an American, the law doesn’t recognize me as an American.  I’m willing to serve my country, I’m willing to fight for this country, I want to go to college and better myself — and I’m at risk of deportation.

And it is heartbreaking.  That can’t be who we are, to have kids — our kids, classmates of our children — who are suddenly under this shadow of fear through no fault of their own.  They didn’t break a law — they were kids.