Sen. Rubio forging ahead on alternative DREAM Act
Marco Rubio, a potential Republican vice presidential nominee, is working on an election-year immigration bill as his party struggles to appeal to Latino voters. (Facebook.com/HispanicLeadershipNetwork)
Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.) is speaking with Senate Republicans about drafting a modified version of the DREAM Act as the GOP struggles to find Latino support in an election year.
Rubio, a Cuban-American who opposes the current version of the law, is working on an altered version of the legislation. Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) and Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), both of whom are retiring at the end of the year, are working in tandem on a modified bill, the The Hill newspaper reported Tuesday.
The original report indicated that the bill could be introduced once former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney clinches the GOP presidential nomination, but Rubio’s office said there is no timeline for releasing the legislation and would not divulge other details about the talks.
The original legislation would grant a pathway to citizenship to the undocumented children of immigrants who attend college or join the military, but Rubio has said he’s against granting citizenship status to those individuals and both other senators voted against it in Dec. 2010.
Republicans hope that by introducing their own version of the DREAM Act, they could blunt Democrats’ efforts to appeal to Latinos on the immigration issue.
The DREAM Act, as written, is backed by 85 percent of Latino registered voters and more than half say they would be more inclined to vote for a presidential candidate who supports the bill, according to a January Univision News/ABC News/Latino Decisions poll. The same survey found Romney, who’s pledged to veto the bill, trailing President Obama by 42 percentage points among Latino voters.
Similar attempts at a GOP counter-proposal are already underway in the House. Rep. David Rivera (R-Fla.) has introduced two alternatives titled the ARMS Act and the STARS Act. The former would offer a pathway to legal status to those who join the military only and the latter would allow a “residency adjustment” to students who plan on attending a four-year university after they turn 18 years of age.
But Rubio, a rising GOP star and a potential vice presidential nominee, would add much more political heft behind the effort.
Senate Democrats indicated that Rubio’s proposal could experience a rocky path forward.
“The DREAM Act is Republican bill authored by Sen. Orrin Hatch as a consensus position and the American public supports it. It would be constructive if Republicans like Sen. Rubio would support it again instead of opposing it outright and pushing ideas that would create a permanent underclass of non-citizens,” José Parra, a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told Univision News. “These young people are American in all but paperwork.
“Sen. Reid has always been open to accommodating Republican concerns, but he will not hollow out the DREAM Act and leave hundreds of thousands of young people out in the cold,” added Parra.
Rubio has come under heavy pressure from Latino groups and immigration reform advocates over his position on immigration since being elected to the Senate in 2010. During a January speech in his home city of Miami intended to map out a “middle ground” on immigration, he was confronted by pro-DREAM Act protesters, one organization sponsored a plane to fly outside the venue carrying banner that read: “Hey Marco: No Somos Rubios!” (translation: “Hey Marco, we’re not blond!” — a play-on-words on Rubio’s affiliation with the mostly-white Tea Party movement, according to organizers).
The freshman senator hinted at the framework of a potential bill during a radio interview with Geraldo Rivera on New York’s WABC two weeks ago. He said that the current version of the bill is too expansive and could lead to “chain migration.”
“I do think that there is another way to deal with this. And I think that one of the debates that we need to begin to have is there is a difference between citizenship and legalization,” he said. “You can legalize someone’s status in this country with a significant amount of certainty about their future without placing them on a path toward citizenship.”
Daniela Pelaez, the North Miami Senior High valedictorian whose possible deportation caught national attention, met with Rubio in Washington, D.C. last month and told Univision News that the senator was also concerned that the age groups covered by the original DREAM Act were too broad.
“Those were the biggest concerns for him,” she said.
Immigration-reform advocates said they were skeptical that the election-year effort would offer a substantive solution.
“Will the Republican-led DREAM Act in an election year right the wrongs of Republican anti-immigrant legislation like Arizona and Alabama’s laws? We’re skeptical,” said Ali Noorani, Executive Director of the National Immigration Forum.