"Some of these [immigrants] are compelling cases, no doubt about it," said Beck. "But you've got to draw some lines a lot narrower than the DREAM Act draws them. This is about giving millions of illegal aliens permanent work permits, and I don't think in this economy that this is a very happy time to be doing that."
However, Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., one of the leading sponsors of the DREAM Act, said opponents of the measure are breeding "hysteria" and that lawmakers must not overlook the costs of doing nothing.
"Let us consider the alternative to legalizing DREAM Act-eligible young people," he said. "The young men and women eligible for the DREAM Act will still live here but can only take jobs in the black market, probably cannot afford the high costs we charge foreign students for a college education, and are barred from serving in the military.
"We want a more educated workforce fully taxed within the legitimate economy. This is why the DREAM Act, if anything, is likely to be a net revenue generator for the federal government," he said.
Top Democrats have been under mounting pressure to bring the DREAM Act for an up-or-down vote during the lame duck session as Hispanic and other immigrant groups have grown frustrated with Democrats and the administration for relative lack of legislative action on immigration reform under their watch.
If the measure fails to advance out of the Senate, it likely will not receive Congressional consideration for at least two more years.