Immigration remains a divisive issue for Republicans, with a faction of the party backing anti-immigrant laws while others are more moderate. On the campaign trail, Mitt Romney tried to straddle the divide. He first promised to veto the DREAM Act to win over hard right primary voters, before saying in April that he would be OK with the legislation for people who serve in the military. And Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), who endorsed Romney, has promised to introduce his own version of the DREAM Act by the end of the summer, but that puts him at odds with another Romney supporter, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who dismissed the bill as a gimmick.
Now, another Florida Republican has introduced another alternative to the DREAM Act in the House. Rep. David Rivera’s (R-FL) bill would offer undocumented immigrants the chance to receive conditional non-immigrant status. But under the Studying Towards Adjusted Residency Status — or STARS — Act, only undocumented immigrants who are 18 or younger and meet a laundry list of requirements would be eligible:
“The STARS Act would allow undocumented students who arrived here at a young age, graduated from high school and are accepted into a university, to apply for a five-year conditional non-immigrant status,” Rivera said in floor remarks.
According to an aide, Rivera has had discussions with Rubio over their proposals.
“Congressman Rivera has had discussion about the STARS Act with Sen. Rubio, but the congressman recognizes that the House and Senate each have their own legislative process,” the aide said. “The STARS Act is meant to start the conversation in the House of Representatives in the hopes of achieving some sort of immigration reform in the 112th Congress.”
If they graduate from a four year college during that first five-year period, they can then apply for another five years after graduating college. Then, during the second five-year period and after thousands of dollars in fees, they could apply for legal permanent residence. Once granted, it would be another five years before they could apply for citizenship.
In other words, Rivera has proposed a complicated process for a very limited portion of the undocumented population living in the U.S. right now — and one that many of his fellow Republicans likely will not take seriously. House Judiciary Committee Chair Lamar Smith (R-TX) has already said he would not hold a hearing on the DREAM Act in his committee, and Rivera said Smith has not said yes to his legislation.
Unlike Rubio, Rivera recognizes the importance of providing a clear path to permanent status and eventually citizenship. But if Rivera was serious about offering a path to citizenship for undocumented students, there’s already a plan for that — and it’s called the DREAM Act.