A modified version of the Dream Act is being pushed by a Republican senator from Florida who’s been mentioned as a possible candidate for vice president. U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio wants to break the logjam around the controversial legislation that would give children of illegal immigrants a path to citizenship.
The bill faces resistance from the GOP, but it is an election year and the Hispanic vote may be critical.
The compromise would grant students who are the children of illegal immigrants a new kind of nonimmigrant visa that would let them live in this country legally for a period of time. They could work, drive and pay taxes. He would also grant nonimmigrant visas to the graduates of colleges and trade schools, enabling them to stay here and work.
The proposal would not grant them green cards, giving them permanent residency, which sets it apart from the original Dream Act. With their nonimmigrant visas, they could seek green cards in the traditional way, either through marriage, family or an employer. But they could remain in this country legally during that process.
Left with few options, many students and activists said that they were open to Mr. Rubio’s compromise but that they would wait to see the complete bill. Gaby Pacheco, an immigrant activist for United We Dream, who recently met with Senator Rubio, said the students were tired of waiting for Congress and wanted to break the logjam. She said Mr. Rubio was taking a serious approach to the problem. “We need a starting point,” she said “Right now with the way the country is so polarized and anti-immigrant, if a Republican starts talking about it and is able to bring his party into the dialogue, we need to listen to that and give them the opportunity.”
Mr. Rubio said that he was still working on the details and that he hoped to introduce a bill once he had lined up enough support. The Dream Act passed the House in 2010 but failed in the Senate. Last year, Senator Richard J. Durbin, the Illinois Democrat who sponsored the bill, modified it to address some Republican concerns, but it has not attracted much party support.
Most Republicans view the bill as a form of “amnesty” to people who have broken the law and as a lure to undocumented immigrants.
Mr. Rubio, a potential vice-presidential contender and a Florida Cuban-American, said he was working to garner support from fellow conservatives. The issue is important to many Hispanics in the country, a group of swing voters that has largely decried Mitt Romney’s position on how to handle illegal immigrants. “I am cautiously optimistic that we are going to have very significant support among Republicans,” Mr. Rubio said.
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog