We knew this day was coming as soon as we saw how the Latino vote carried President Obama to victory in November.
Two Republican senators, Jon Kyl of Arizona and Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, have introduced a bill that would allow DREAMers to remain in the country legally, but without a special and automatic pathway to citizenship.
From NBC Latino:
“The ‘Achieve Act’ proposes that young undocumented immigrants who were brought here before age 14 and are 28 years old or less (or less than 32 years old with a U.S. bachelor’s degree) can obtain study or military visas, which could later be upgraded for work purposes and eventually lead to permanent (non-immigrant) visas. …
While the Achieve Act does not put young undocumented immigrants ‘in the front of the line’ for a citizenship track, the Senators said it does not preclude Dreamers from applying for citizenship or green cards. Senator Kyl also said many of these Dreamers might marry U.S. citizens at some point, or perhaps be able to obtain sponsorship through employment. The proposed legislation would not allow Dreamers to qualify for public welfare, federal student loans, or benefits.
Latino Democratic legislators say the fact this legislation does not include a path to citizenship makes this a non-starter.”
I wouldn’t call the Achieve Act a non-starter. It’s more like a good start.
While the Achieve Act doesn’t treat Achievers as well as the DREAM Act treats DREAMers, it does recognize that certain young people should be differentiated from the rest of the undocumented immigrant population. That’s an important first step in passing legislation that’ll make life in America and the road to legal status easier for DREAMers, Achievers, or whatever you want to call them.
The two senators themselves hinted at the fact that their bill isn’t some much of a serious piece of legislation as it is something to “get this ball rolling,” as Senator Kyl phrased it. Senator Hutchison said that beginning with a focus on DREAMers is part of the “art of compromise on a difficult issue like this,” presumably referring to the debate over immigration reform.
“Citizenship is the bedrock of our immigration system,” Representative Luis Gutiérrez (D-IL) told reporter after attending a citizenship ceremony in Chicago Tuesday morning. “I will not support immigration reform that falls short of citizenship, and neither will the Congressional Hispanic Caucus or the American people.”
Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), the only senator in the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, agreed with Gutiérrez. “Republicans must embrace an earned path to citizenship if they want to address the Republican party’s issues with the Latino electorate,” Menendez said, “and this bill doesn’t achieve that goal.”
According to the NBC report, Senators Hutchison and Kyl did a lot of namedropping during their press conference on Tuesday, mentioning Senator Marco Rubio’s name more than a few times. They’re hoping Rubio’s alleged input in the Achieve Act will give their bill some street cred among Latinos — which only serves to underscore how little the Republican Party knows about the Latino electorate.
Still, as I said in the beginning, this is a good first step. Once a sleeping giant, Latinos finally awoke last month, and they now command the attention of the conservative party and are a primary focus of domestic policy. There’s even a immigration bill coming up for a vote on Friday, introduced by House Republicans — you heard me correctly: House Republicans — that would allow the spouses and minor children of legal immigrants to remain in the country while they’re waiting for their green cards.
So whether it’s DREAM or Achieve that gets passed, Latinos should will call it a victory.