By now, you must have heard that Senator Rubio is working on his own version of the federal DREAM Act. There are many versions of the same concept floating around the Hill, but none as divisive and dangerous as this one.
The Miami Herald reports some of the details of Rubio’s alternative to the DREAM Act:
Rubio’s proposal allows young people who came to the United States with their parents to have access to a non-immigrant visa that allows them to study, and after their studies are complete, allows them to work legally in the United States. Eventually, Rubio said, they gain the same status of other non-immigrant visa-holders and are eligible to apply for residency. Three to five years after they obtain a green card, they’re eligible for citizenship.
“It’s a non-immigrant visa, so it doesn’t put them on a path in and of itself to residency and then citizenship,” he said. “But it does legalize their status, it wipes out any of these immigration penalties that they might be facing, and it allows them to go on with their lives with some level of certainty.”
Who is threatened by this proposal? This sounds like an incredibly dangerous bill for Democrats. It’s a sharp retort to Senator Harry Reid who has stated that he would bring the DREAM Act up for a vote before elections to show Latinos that the GOP loathes them. It’s also a slap in the face to Senator Durbin’s dream, who has wanted the DREAM Act to be his legacy. And it may prevent our honorable President Barack Obama from sending out any more fundraising emails about how he supports the DREAM Act, despite the fact that he did virtually no heavy-lifting for it when it was put up for a vote in 2010. All in all, it is super-scary because it means that the Democrats need to pull it together and work with Republicans on this proposal rather than continue to use the DREAM Act as a wedge issue and short-change our communities.
A way to still win on the issue would be to force a vote on the DREAM Act, and after that loses due to GOP opposition, take up Rubio’s proposal. Another would be to pass it in the Senate, and hope that the Republican-controlled House votes it down. If the Democrats avoid debate or discussion, they come out looking like the party that wants to use immigration as an election-year issue but not do anything to provide relief for our communities. A polling of undocumented youth shows that while many are skeptical of the Rubio alternative, they are even more tired of people playing politics with their lives, and open to compromises from the GOP. After all, even Senator Reid admits that under the last version of the DREAM Act, it would have taken 13 years for beneficiaries to get citizenship.
Friend of the blog and ally, Marisol Ramos, provides us with 6 reasons why the Rubio bill matters:
#1 Rubio’s alternative to the DREAM Act is politics as usual but then its not because it breaks the Democratic stalemate (10 yrs in the making) on DREAM Act. While the DREAM Act was a GOP endeavor back in the day, the GOP has steadily abandoned their support on the Hill. It has become an increasingly partisan bill in Congress, with a bad reputation amongst congressional aides and staffers. During lobbying visits, we’ve been told time and again that we need to bring the GOP to the table. Now we have them at the table. What next?
#2 Rubio’s alternative to the DREAM Act also reminds us that while the GOP’s rhetoric is absolutely nasty towards immigrants (especially Latinos), it is the party with pantalones in Congress. If there is any policy change, this is the opportunity we’ve been waiting for to reach a bipartisan compromise. After all, least we forget, it was a Republican President who passed the last amnesty.
#3 Democrats and weak progressive groups always react rather than act pro-actively with progressive immigration proposals. As a group, they do not seem to have a moral compass on the issue. This is the opportunity to stop dickering and act. Least we forget, the last anti-immigrant bill came from Senator Schumer (D-NY) virulently pushing a $600 million “border security” bill down the throats of taxpayers. President Obama has deported more people in his first term than President Bush did in two terms. And his administration plans to extend the so-called “Secure Communities” program nationwide by 2013.
#4 Changing the rhetoric: Will this new GOP Dream Act change the rhetoric for Republicans towards Latinos? Would it open up non-xenophobic discourse on the issue? It is definitely a new page in their playbook. In the least, providing relief for undocumented youth instead of deporting us is beginning to look like a foregone conclusion.
#5 A GOP Dream Act acknowledges that Latinos are the new majority because if they did not, it would be political suicide for them, sooner or later. I’m not sure whether progressives and Democrats actually get the memo or whether they think they can keep taking us for granted and we will vote for them only because they appear to be less hateful.
#6 Undocumented people have been used and abused as political toys for too long by both parties. It is unwise to let Democrats take advantage of us or take us from granted simply because the GOP is the “F–k Latinos Party.” They are both the “Use Latinos Party.” Until they provide something substantial to us besides rhetoric, we aren’t about to be sold that one is better than the other. As of now, one hates us openly and honestly, while the other is nicer but stabs us in the back continuously.
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