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Dream Act fails in the U.S. Senate with George LeMieux voting against; Bill Nelson voting in favor

The Senate just shot down a measure aimed at helping put children of illegal immigrants on a path to citizenship. Florida Dem Bill Nelson voted for the measure; Republican George LeMieux -- whom activists had targeted -- voted no.

It needed 60 votes to survive -- but fell 5 votes shy. Strategists say the measure is likely dead for at least two years with Republicans in control of the U.S. House.

Eligible students watched the proceedings from the Senate gallery and at debate-watching parties across the country. Crushed advocates vowed not to forget the vote:

"To the majority of Republicans and the handful of Democrats who voted against the best and the brightest of the Latino immigrant community, your vote against DREAM will be remembered as long as you are in politics," said Frank Sharry, executive director of America's Voice. "Many of you have expressed your sympathy for the DREAMers. But today we did not need your sympathy. We needed your vote."

The bill would have allowed illegal immigrants younger than 30 who entered the U.S. before age 16, lived here for five years without committing serious crimes, graduated from high school and attended college or joined the military to be eligible for legal residency after meeting other criteria.

Obama and congressional Democratic leaders — who vowed to Hispanic voters during their 2008 campaigns that they'd change immigration laws — say that passing the act is the right thing to do and would help the nation's economy and military. Opponents consider it a backdoor amnesty that rewards bad behavior. They've called for stricter immigration enforcement.

South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham accused Democrats of pushing the matter to appeal to Hispanic voters.

"They're not doing this to advance the issue," he said. "They're doing it to advance politically."

Democrat Dick Durbin rejected the charge, holding up pictures of Dream Act-eligible students. He called voting for the measure an act of "political courage.

"I might say, if you can summon the courage to vote for the DREAM Act today, you will join ranks with senators before you, who came to the floor of these United States and made history with their courage, who stood up and said the cause of justice is worth the political risk," Durbin said.