Rep. Gutierrez: “Great” meeting with Rubio on alternative DREAM Act
Democrats still aren’t sold on Rubio’s plan, but the two sides are beginning to talk.
A key Democratic congressman said Wednesday that he was encouraged by a meeting with Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) over his plan to introduce a pared-down version of the DREAM Act.
Rubio huddled behind closed doors Wednesday afternoon with three Latino Democratic members of Congress in order to discuss the proposed legislation; Sen. Robert Menendez (N.J.), Rep. Charles Gonzalez (Texas), and Rep. Luis Gutierrez (Ill.)., an indication they may consider backing the yet-to-be-released bill.
“It was a great meeting. Look, I am going to meet with anyone independent of their political party or what perceived or real political benefit my association [provides] as long as it does one thing: stop the deportations,” Gutierrez told Univision News in an interview Wednesday evening.
The congressman, who’s known as a champion for immigration reform, said the three members who met with Rubio aren’t yet willing to announce their support for the plan since the final language has not yet been drafted, although they did discuss some details.
“He said it and we agreed with him; today was not a day for us to come together because there is no proposal to agree on. It was simply a conversation opening dialogue,” said Gutierrez.
Attracting bipartisan support for his alternative DREAM Act would be a major political coup for Rubio. It would allow him to put pressure on President Obama and Democratic leaders to get on board with his proposal in the middle of an election year where immigration has become a lightning rod issue.
Rubio’s proposal is styled after the current version of the DREAM Act, which would provide a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children who are seeking a higher education or want to enlist in the military. The proposal, which is widely popular with Latinos and non-Latinos alike, passed the House in 2010 but failed to clear a 60-vote hurdle in the Senate to break a filibuster.
The DREAM Act has been stalled in Congress since then under near-universal Republican opposition, including from Rubio, who describes it as an “amnesty” bill that could lead to “chain migration.” The presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney said said he would veto the current version, though he has said recently he is open to Rubio’s plan.
Rubio says that under his proposal, certain undocumented minors would receive legal status, but not a special pathway to citizenship. That has been a main point of contention of several immigration-reform advocates and Democrats, who have described it as a half measure, an indication that it’s far from certain Democrats will endorse it.
Indeed, earlier this month, Gutierrez labeled the plan the “Stolen Dreams Act.” But he pledged to hold his fire until Rubio comes out with more details regarding the plan.
“I also have concerns. I don’t want to speak to the details of a bill that he hasn’t fully elaborated. He gave us some good indications about different components of the bill, but those components could change,” he said. “Let’s give him a chance. He asked me to give him a chance, and I’m going to wait.”
Also among Gutierrez’s concerns is the apparent lack of support for such a proposal among the Republicans in the House of Representatives, where they make up the majority. That could be nearly impossible to reverse in a presidential election year, plus the Illinois congressman said that could be even tougher since six of the eight GOP House members who backed the DREAM Act in 2010 are no longer serving.
“The Achilles Heel to any proposal seems to be the Republican House of Representatives,” he said. “They’re in charge. They’re in the majority. He can speak to me all he wants.”
Despite his lingering concerns, Gutierrez said he agreed with Rubio to continue the conversation.
“We have [agreed] that we are going to continue to speak. When we’ll meet again, I don’t know. I asked him when did he think we could hear more, he said in a few weeks. Sounds great to me,” he said.
“I hope at the next meeting we’re closer.”