Senator Marco Rubio missed the mark on the DREAM Act today when he said that he’d consider offering a path to legal status, but not citizenship, for undocumented students. As a Latino Republican, Rubio has been criticized for his stance against the DREAM Act, which in its original form would permit students who had completed high school and either gone to college or joined the military, a path to eventual citizenship.
During a radio interview with Geraldo Rivera today, Rubio teetered between defending his current opposition to the DREAM Act and trying to find a way to appease Latino voters who will prove an important demographic for Republicans during the election season. Rubio delved into his new position on the DREAM Act:
The DREAM Act, as it is currently structured, has a series of problems that not only denies it the support that it needs, but I think would be counterproductive to our goal of having a legal immigration system that works. … It could be expanded to millions of people, which is problematic. But 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. 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. And I think that is something that we can find consensus on and it is one of the ways to address the issue of chain migration.
Rubio’s suggestion for a DREAM Act would mean that potentially millions of kids who grew up in the United States without the right papers would be forced to be non-voting residents of their home country. Rubio may be using the rhetoric of defending Latinos against right-wing attacks, but the Republican policies don’t play out well for Latinos, specifically on the DREAM Act. The Republican presidential candidates are running on extreme immigration policies, and it would take a lot for Latinos to regain trust in the party. Offering a path to second-class citizenship is not exactly the olive branch Latinos are looking for.