Senate Republicans are working on an alternative version of the DREAM Act, a Democratic-supported bill that has become a lightning rod in the immigration debate.
The Hill reports that Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and some of his colleagues are crafting an alternate version of the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, a piece of legislation that would allow some undocumented immigrants who were brought to the country as young children -- including those who attend college or join the military -- to seek citizenship. The bill faltered in early 2010 when Senate Democrats couldn't marshal enough Republican votes to overcome a filibuster.
Rubio did not provide any details on the new legislation. The Hill reported that Sens. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., and Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, are also working on a bill, but the particulars are likely to remain under wraps.
I don't have any specifics to announce yet, Rubio told the Hill. This stuff has to be done responsibly. We're working toward that and hopefully very soon.
A string of tough new immigration laws passed in Republican-controlled states, combined with hawkish immigration rhetoric from Republican presidential candidates, seems to be damaging the Republican Party's standing with Latinos -- a recent Fox News Latino poll found President Barack Obama capturing the Latino vote by a wide margin in hypothetical head-to-head matchups with the Republican candidates.
Rubio Wants A Different Plan
Rubio, the only current Senate Republican of Hispanic background, has been widely touted as a potential vice presidential pick in hopes he could shore up the party's support from the Latino electorate. He has also expressed a desire to find a version of the DREAM Act that is palatable to both parties.
I do think there are changes that can be made to the concept of the DREAM act that will make it acceptable and get it passed, Rubio said in an interview with Geraldo Rivera, adding that the bill in its current form is the wrong medicine.
In the interview, Rubio said he wanted to find a way to help young immigrants who are in America illegally by no fault of their own. He pointed to the case of a high school valedictorian in Florida who was facing deportation because she had been brought to the country as a child on a tourist visa that has since expired. (She subsequently got a reprieve and met with Rubio.)
Now, if she played basketball or if she threw 90 miles an hour we're going to keep her, but if she's a valedictorian we're going to deport her? That makes no sense, Rubio said.
In a hint of what the bill currently in the works might include, Rubio drew a distinction between offering immigrants legal status and a path to citizenship. He invoked a common criticism that the DREAM Act would lead to chain migration, in which young immigrants granted citizenship can act as anchors to bring family members to the country.
You can legalize someone's status in this country with a significant amount of certainty about their future without placing them on a path towards citizenship, and I think that that is something we can find consensus on, Rubio said.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., rejected the incipient effort, saying at an event that he would not back a watered-down version of the DREAM Act, the Hill reported.
The DREAM Act enjoys overwhelming support from Latino voters. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has vowed he would veto the bill if elected, although he later expressed support for a version that would only apply to immigrants who serve in the military. Rick Santorum has taken the same position.