Over the weekend, the Senate failed to approve the so-called DREAM Act. It's a measure that would have given some young illegal immigrants a pathway to citizenship.
Pedro Ramirez, 22, was a toddler when his parents brought him to this country. It wasn’t until his junior year in high school that he learned they had brought him here illegally. That news disrupted his plans to enlist in the service.
"That was my first choice," Ramirez said. "To serve in some branch of the military, a lot of my friends were doing it, so I was hoping to join them."
The DREAM Act would have opened the possibility of citizenship to young people who were brought to the U.S. before the age of 16. They would be required to go to college or join the military and stay out of trouble as a condition for getting legal residency.
But the bill was defeated Five Senate Democrats from swing states joined a majority of Republicans in preventing a floor vote.
"The Republicans filibustered it pretty much, but I also blame the Democratic party for not getting all its members in line," Ramirez said. "All we can do now, is prepare for the next Congress and keep pushing it. And prepare for 2012 when election season comes around and those Senators that voted against it, we'll keep them accountable."
Opponents of the DREAM Act praised the Senate and said it now can move on to more important immigration matters. Ira Mehlman is a spokeman for the Federation For American Immigration Reform.
"The Senate recognized that amnesty for illegal aliens is not popular with the American public," Mehlman said. "What the public really wants is for them to address the economic issues. That they will honor previous commitments to secure borders to really deal with the causes of illegal immigration rather than simply rewarding people who break our laws."
In the aftermath of the vote, Latino activists say they are bruised but not beaten. They can still show majority support in the House and Senate, says Thomas Saenz President of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.
"A bill that has that kind of momentum will not go away," Saenz said. "Even if a minority of the United States Senate failed to see that, it's an idea whose time has come and it will stick around until it is encated."