Florida Republican files bill for undocumented youth who want to serve in military
Inspired by Monday’s GOP debate, Rep. David Rivera introduced a military-only version of the DREAM Act.
Rep. David Rivera (R-Fla.) has filed a bill that would provide a pathway to citizenship for young undocumented immigrants who agree to serve in the military, but not for those who want to attend college.
“If these young people are willing to die for America, then certainly they deserve a chance at life in America,” Rivera said in a statement.
The bill, called the Adjusted Residency for Military Service Act (ARMS Act), is a variation of the DREAM Act that was endorsed by the two front-runners in race for the Republican presidential nomination during Monday’s debate in Florida.
At the debate, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich said he would only support a law that would provide a pathway to citizenship to undocumented children of immigrants who serve in the military.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney said he agreed, even though he stated in Iowa he would veto the DREAM Act if it reached his desk.
The Miami Herald reported Friday that Rivera, who has endorsed Gingrich, was inspired by the candidates’ statements at the debate. If the bill won’t pass as it exists, Rivera told the Herald, it’s worth it to try and advance a bill that can pass.
“There’s also a lot to be said for victory-by-victory, year-by-year,” he said. “Laying the groundwork could very much expedite those reforms in the future.”
The congressman’s bill would not guarantee legal residency. Beneficiaries would get conditional legal status for five years if they show intent of enlisting in the military. They would not be subject to deportation during that period, and would be able to apply for a five year extension and the end. Then, after the extension, they would be able to apply for legal permanent residence.
Immigrant rights advocates were not happy with the proposal and suggested it was a politically motivated ploy to help GOP candidates along the campaign trail.
Angelica Salas, director of the Coalition for Human Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles, said the bill “bastardized” the DREAM Act.
“Rivera’s proposal is a clear and timed political bow to insincere pronouncements on the campaign trail that call only for the legalization of young people who serve in the military,” Salas said in a statement.
Ali Noorani, director of the Washington-based National Immigration Forum, agreed the move was political, and said the bill would provide the wrong incentives for military enlistment during a time of war.
“We expect Florida voters to see right through this effort and demand better,” Noorani said in a statement.
“If the Republican Party wishes to show immigrant and Latino voters in Florida their genuine support for immigrant youth, it should commit to advance the DREAM Act, a historically bipartisan, poll-tested measure that would legalize the most talented immigrant youth as well as those serving in our armed forces.”