I got an unexpected chance to sit in the Senate visitors’ gallery this morning as they debated the DREAM Act and the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.
The Sisters of Mercy have been really supportive of all immigration reform measures that would create pathways to legal status for undocumented immigrants. I’ve been active in that during my few weeks here, writing emai advocacy alerts for Sisters and other supporters, and blogging about it and even making a visit to Senate offices a couple of weeks ago.
So when a colleague invited me to tag along this morning for what we thought would be joining a gathering to watch the proceedings on TV with other supporters, I quickly agreed.
Was I glad I did! We arrived at the United Methodist building across from the Capitol and were handed passes to the Senate gallery, along with lots of other supporters of the DREAM Act.
We had to pass through a couple of security checkpoints, as well as a desk where they had you hand over any electronic equipment. And then we just squeaked into the chamber for the few remaining open seats.
The place was filled with dozens of young people who had come from around the country to support DREAM. Many dressed in graduation caps and gowns to symbolize their dreams for an education here and a fulfilling career afterward. Others were there to support the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.
It was fascinating listening to the last-minute debates, and then the roll call for a vote. We tried to keep a tally of the “yes” and “no” votes to see where we were at the end, but we had to wait for the official count to be sure. DREAM lost by 5 votes to proceed to the Senate for a final vote. DADT came through, though. While we weren’t active on that issue, it was thrilling to see another justice issue win the day and to know it was a historic vote we witnessed.