If passed, the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act (the DREAM Act) would have provided certain illegal and deportable alien students who graduate from US high schools, an opportunity to earn conditional permanent residency if they complete two years in the military or two years at a four year institution of higher learning.
"I am very disappointed Congress wasn't able to pass the DREAM Act so we can stop punishing kids for the actions of their parents, and allow them to serve in the military or earn an education and contribute their talents to the country where they grew up," Obama said at a White House news conference.
"My biggest disappointment was this DREAM Act vote," he added.
"I get letters from kids all across the country -- came here when they were five, came here when they were eight; their parents were undocumented. The kids are going to school like any other American kid, they're growing up, they're playing football, they're going to class, they're dreaming about college," he said.
"And suddenly they come to 18, 19 years old and they realize even though I feel American, I am an American, the law doesn't recognize me as an American. I'm willing to serve my country, I'm willing to fight for this country, I want to go to college and better myself and I'm at risk of deportation.
"It is heartbreaking. That can't be who we are, to have our kids, classmates of our children -- who are suddenly under this shadow of fear through no fault of their own. They didn’t break a law; they were kids," Obama said.
"So my hope and expectation is that, first of all, everybody understands I am determined and this administration is determined to get immigration reform done. It is the right thing to do.
"I think it involves securing our borders, and my administration has done more on border security than any administration in recent years. We have more of everything -- ICE, Border Patrol, surveillance, you name it," he said.
"So we take border security seriously. And we take going after employers who are exploiting and using undocumented workers, we take that seriously. But we need to reform this immigration system so we are a nation of laws and we are a nation of immigrants. And at minimum, we should be able to get the DREAM Act done," Obama said, adding this would be one of his top priority when he comes back.