Senate lawmakers have delayed a vote on the controversial DREAM Act that would create a path to citizenship for children of illegal immigrants in the United States.
Democrats want to advance the bill, but failed to secure enough votes, Thursday. Opposing Republicans call the DREAM Act a "backdoor" to amnesty that would reward illegal behavior.
Meanwhile, the House approved the legislation Wednesday with a 216-198 vote.
The DREAM Act would give legal status for about 60,000 undocumented students who graduate from high school each year and plan to go on to college or the military.
Supporters of the measure said the DREAM Act would provide a future for young people who right now cannot work or go to school.
"This is about a commitment to our future," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said following more than an hour of emotional debate between lawmakers Wednesday night. "It's about recognition of what these young people can mean for our country."
Senate Democrats are expected to face an uphill battle in gaining the 60 votes needed to overcome Republican opposition and pass the bill.
"Have a little compassion," Rep. Eliot Engel, D-N.Y., admonished the GOP. "These children came here - they didn't decide to come here. They know no other country. Some of them don't even know the language of the country in which they were born, and they deserve to have a right as free Americans."
Republicans lawmakers, however, expressed their displeasure over legislation they feel would be detrimental to Americans citizens. They also said bill would encourage illegal immigration.
"It is not being cold-hearted to acknowledge that every dollar spent on illegal immigrants is one dollar less that's spent on our own children, our own senior citizens and for all those who entered this society who played by the rules, who paid their taxes and expect their government to watch out for their needs before it bestows privileges and scarce resources on illegals," Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., said.