Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) has made it clear he wants to push for a GOP-backed DREAM Act that would give undocumented students legal status — but not citizenship — and now Republicans hope to use this watered-down version of the bill to win support from Latino voters. Sens. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) are also working on a bill like this, which is being kept under wraps and is expected to be unveiled if or when Mitt Romney wins the GOP presidential nomination.
Rubio told The Hill that he has nothing to announce about a non-citizenship DREAM Act, but said, “We’re working toward that and hopefully very soon.” While Rubio, Kyl, and Hutchinson are supposedly prepping a Republican plan, it’s worth noting that the original DREAM Act — to provide citizenship to undocumented students if they meet certain requirements — was a bipartisan plan that had support from GOP Sens. Orrin Hatch (UT) and John McCain (AZ).
Now if Rubio introduces the legal-status-only plan, it will likely be little more than posturing and doubtful to make it far because Republicans like Rep. Lamar Smith (TX), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, are categorically opposed to the DREAM Act and it is doubtful Democrats would support creating a permanent underclass of immigrants. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid pointed out that Republicans have already opposed this measure too, which would impose a class system for immigrants:
At an event on Capitol Hill, Reid cautioned that if Republicans offer a new DREAM Act, it will be a watered-down version of the bill most Republicans opposed when it came up for a vote last year. [...]
[G]roups that advocate for immigrants are skeptical of reforms that fail to grant a path to citizenship.
“Any proposal that is put on the table as to the fate of these children, who are in all consideration American, should be measured by what place they’re going to have in our society,” said Clarissa Martinez, director of immigration at the National Council of La Raza.
Martinez said creating “a class of nation-less people” would not be good for the country.
Earlier this month in an interview with Geraldo Rivera, Rubio teetered between his opposition to the current DREAM Act, which would provide citizenship, and trying to lay out a plan that would appeal to Latinos. “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,” he argued.
But his plan would force potentially millions of undocumented students to become non-voting residents of their home country if they were only given legal status in the U.S. After the extremely anti-immigrant views that the Republican presidential candidates have staked out during the primaries, a plan to create a system of second-class citizenship is not likely to be what Latino voters are looking for from the Republican party.