As President Obama works to restart the immigration debate, congressional Democrats on Wednesday reintroduced the proposed Dream Act, long-sought legislation that would provide children who were brought to the U.S. illegally a route to citizenship if they pursue a college education or military service.
Senate Democratic leaders said they intend to hold a vote on the bill, even though the legislation fell short of passage last year after most Republicans and a handful of Democrats opposed its advance in that chamber.
"We're not giving up," said Sen. Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate and the bill's longtime champion. "This is not just a piece of legislation, it is a matter of justice."
The bill is similarly being introduced Wednesday in the House by Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), who has reintroduced it every year since 2001.
Advancing the legislation is a steep climb for Democrats. The bill passed the House last year, under a Democratic majority, but is expected to face resistance this year under Republican control.
Some Democratic lawmakers would prefer to avoid the legislative battle and instead press the White House to use its executive authority to advance policies important to the immigrant community.
Still, by moving forward with the legislation as the election season unfolds, Democrats intend to put political pressure on Republicans who have expressed support for immigration rights but declined to vote for the bill. Latino voters, in particular, are a growing constituency in many states.
Republicans counter that the legislation has also faced resistance from Democrats, as four Senate Democrats voted against it last year, helping to kill the bill.
The bill would allow young people who were brought to this country before the age of 16 a path to citizenship if they attend college or join the military. The bill has long been considered one piece of a comprehensive immigration-reform effort that would include enforcement and citizenship measures.