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The U.S. Senate handed student activists mixed results Saturday by putting an end to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” but squashing the chances of the DREAM Act being passed this year.

Senators voted 65 to 31 to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” a policy that prevents openly lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals from serving in the military.

However, the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act fell five votes short of the 60 needed to overcome a filibuster in the Senate.

The DREAM Act, which passed in the House of Representatives on Dec. 8, would give immigrant students who are not legal residents a path to citizenship and allow them to join the military and attend college in the U.S.

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

Since the legislation went into effect in 1993, the LGBT community at Penn has opposed the presence of ROTC and military recruitment on campus.

College junior Corinne Rich — who is the chairperson of Lambda Alliance, Penn's umbrella group for LGBT organization — was “ecstatic, but at the same time rather shocked” to learn of the repeal.

“I figured the repeal was certainly on the horizon, but to have it happen now was a very welcome surprise,” she wrote in an e-mail.

According to Rich, the end of DADT “will definitely ease tension over the previous discrepancy between Penn’s non-discrimination policy, and the presence of ROTC on campus.”

“I hope that any members of ROTC that were previously unable to join Penn’s vibrant LGBT scene will know that our community welcomes them with open arms,” she wrote.

Still DREAMing

Currently, undocumented immigrants violate civil laws by entering the country illegally or overstaying their visits. These include five known undocumented students in Penn’s freshman class, according to La Casa Latina, Penn’s cultural resource center for Latino students.

Many student activists at Penn have looked towards the DREAM Act for change, collaborating with — a national, migrant youth-led advocacy group — to raise awareness and participate in phone-call campaigns.

“People are very disappointed,” said College junior Rosie Brown, who is the chairwoman of MEChA, Penn’s Chicano-cultural group. Brown described the Senate vote as “a definite blow to the campaign.”

Despite the disappointment in the Senate, student activists like Brown believe “there are still things we can do in Philadelphia and Pennsylvania to create more opportunities for undocumented students.”

“We’re going to keep fighting,” she said, highlighting plans to write letters to senators who voted against the bill and to campaign for an in-state tuition bill for undocumented students living in certain states.

Penn President Amy Gutmann has publicly endorsed the act. In November, the Undergraduate Assembly passed a resolution to send a letter to state government officials, supporting aspects of the DREAM Act that pertain to students.

UA President and College senior Matt Amalfitano urged students to stand by “education-related pieces” of the act, in spite of the Senate vote.

“Regardless of what happens, we will always stand by these students,” he said, adding that the UA remains committed to the ideal of allowing “the best and brightest students to attend the best institutions in the United States, including Penn.”

According to Amalfitano, the DREAM Act is only one of the many ways to show solidarity with undocumented students.

“There are changes that can be made to our institutions — reducing the level of indirect discrimination that occurs in the admissions process through systems failures, enhancing the resources in our cultural centers,” he added.

Nationally, the act was slated to have a positive impact on the economy. According to a non-partisan Congressional Budget Office report, the DREAM Act would cut the United States deficit by $2.2 billion over 10 years.

President Barack Obama wrote in a statement that the outcome of the vote was “incredibly disappointing,” adding, “The DREAM Act is important to our economic competitiveness, military readiness, and law enforcement efforts.”

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