Two years after Senate Republicans defeated the bipartisan DREAM Act by claiming that Congress must “secure the borders first,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) floated the idea of introducing a GOP alternative to DREAM. Rubio spent three months talking up the concept on cable news, but failed to offer a bill before President Obama announced an administrative directive to protect DREAM Act-eligible students from deportation.
In unveiling the initiative on Friday, Obama cited Congress’ inability to “fix our broken immigration system” as a reason for issuing the Department of Homeland Security directive. What he didn’t expect, however, is that Republicans would respond to the news by reinforcing his message and abandoning their reform efforts.
Republicans accused Obama of politicizing immigration and the party’s new spokesperson on the issue announced that he is closing shop on any efforts to tackle the immigration question. Rubio told the Wall Street Journal on Monday that he thinks Obama’s announcement “sets back our efforts to arrive at a balanced and responsible approach to this issue. It poisons the well. It leads to mistrust.”
But the truth is that Republicans had never seriously considered comprehensive immigration reform or any new solutions for helping young people stay in the country:
— House Judiciary Committee Chairman Refused To Hold DREAM Act Hearing: Even if Rubio had introduced a bill and if the Senate had approved it, a version of the DREAM Act would have immediately stalled in the House because of Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX). The congressman chairs the Judiciary Committee and said he would not hold a hearing on the DREAM Act, which he called an “American nightmare.”
— Original Republican Sponsor Of DREAM Act Didn’t Vote For It In 2010: In 2003, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) sponsored the DREAM Act when it was first introduced. But when the Senate voted on a more conservative version of the bill in 2010, Hatch skipped the vote and dismissed it as a “cynical exercise in political charades” by Senate Democrats.
— Republican Claimed Democrats Used DREAM Act To Make Republicans ‘Look Bad’: After 41 mostly Republican senators stopped the DREAM Act from passing in 2010, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) claimed that Democrats had pushed the DREAM Act to hurt the GOP’s reputation among Latinos. The bill “passed without the ability to amend to try to make Republicans look bad with Hispanics,” he said. But Graham ignored the number of Republican senators from Latino-heavy states who previously supported the DREAM Act and voted against in 2010, and he failed to mention his own floor comments telling young undocumented immigrants who visited his office that they were “wasting their time.”
Republicans can claim that President Obama went around Congress to give protection to undocumented students, but it was the failure of congressional Republicans that forced him to act.