From NBC's Libby Leist
One day after President Barack Obama stood at the U.S.-Mexico border to call for immigration reform, Senate Democrats re-introduced legislation that would offer citizenship to many illegal immigrants who came to the United States as children.
The DREAM Act, which would create a path to citizenship for some undocumented immigrants who have completed two years of college or military service and who came to the United States before the age of 15, failed by a close vote in the Senate during the lame duck session of Congress last December.
But Democratic leaders are trying again, saying that passage of the bill is “a matter of justice” that would bolster the U.S. economy, help educate more young Americans, and swell the ranks of the armed forces.
"Instead of kicking out of our country people who are educated, want to become educated, be productive members of our society, we should let them work," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said at a press conference to tout the proposed bill.
Democratic lawmakers highlighted provisions in the legislation that would prevent ineligible candidates from committing fraud and would disqualify individuals who have committed a criminal felony or more than two misdemeanors. The bill also requires applicants to prove that they have "good moral character" as determined by immigration agents.
The proposal's backers also argue that the DREAM Act participants who would be added to the American workforce could contribute trillions of dollars to the nation’s economy in their lifetimes.
Opponents of the DREAM Act have argued that the standards to weed out participants with criminal records are too lenient and that the bill would encourage non-citizens to bring their children into the country illegally.
The legislation, which bypassed a filibuster threat last year but fell short of final passage by five votes, faces a tough path this year in the Senate and almost certain opposition in the GOP-led House.
But Reid said Wednesday that he can win the support of some of his Republican colleagues during this session of Congress.
"I believe there are people of good will on the Republican side of the aisle ... who will join with us,” he said.
msnbc.com's Carrie Dann contributed