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WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Sen. Orrin Hatch said he skipped a vote on the failed DREAM Act over the weekend because it was a "cynical exercise in political charades" by the Senate's Democratic leadership.
Senate Republicans blocked legislation called the DREAM Act this weekend. The act, intended to help undocumented youths earn citizenship by attending college or serving in the military, failed 55-41 on Saturday with the support of just three Republicans, including Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah.
In July at a town hall meeting in Layton, Sen. Hatch said, "With regard to the DREAM Act, a lot of these kids were brought in as infants. They don't even know that they're not citizens until they graduate from high school. And if they've lived good lives and done good things, why would we penalize them and not let them at least go to school?"
Hatch told the audience he's against amnesty for the children of illegal immigrants but supports the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act.
That was then, but Sen. Hatch, an original sponsor of the bill wasn't there for the vote. He was in Missouri Saturday attending a grandson's graduation when the vote happened.
His press secretary, Mark Eddington, said the original DREAM Act bill has changed several times since July. In the official Congressional Record, Sen. Hatch states that priorities have changed -- the economy, unemployment -- and that this bill should not be pushed through a lame duck session. He says he would have voted against it.
Eddington said Hatch believes "there's no way we can or should do anything on immigration until the American people have confidence that our borders are secure. And the fact is they aren't."
Drugs like meth come into Utah from Mexico, Eddington said, "and with those drugs come violence, murder, drug and human trafficking. This is serious. So there's no change here — his position is a recognition of a basic reality."
In his statement Monday, Sen. Hatch said, in part, "The American people sent a clear message in the November elections that they want Congress to focus on getting the economy moving. Unfortunately, Senate majority leaders have opted instead to move ahead with show votes aimed at currying favor with their far left political constituencies."
Bishop John Wester, leader of Utah's Catholic Diocese, also released a statement Monday. In part it says, "It is tragic for these bright, young immigrants and a loss for our country. I wish to thank Sen. Robert Bennett for his courage and leadership in voting for the DREAM Act. The final days of his illustrious career in the Senate are graced by his decision to support this legislation."
Bishop Wester also said he is hopeful that the new Congress will revisit this issue.