GOP elected officials, including Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., are working on “a conservative-Republican alternative” to the DREAM Act, in an effort to reach out to Latino voters before the November presidential election.
The DREAM Act, which was first introduced in Congress 10 years ago, would grant those who entered the U.S. illegally before the age of 16 conditional permanent resident status for a period of six years, after which they would be eligible to become legal permanent residents if they obtain at least an associate-level college degree or serve in the military for two years.
Rubio tells the National Review in an interview published Friday that “Democrats and the Left are terrified of losing this issue,” and that they do not want to solve but rather use it as a political tool.
“If and when we are able to come up with a conservative-Republican alternative DREAM Act that deals with the issues of these kids without undermining our heritage as a nation of laws, when we do that, we are going to expose the political reality behind this,” Rubio says.
The Hill reported early this week that Rubio had no “specifics to announce yet,” about his alternative DREAM Act. “This stuff has to be done responsibly. We’re working toward that and hopefully very soon,” Rubio told the paper.
Rubio, who still does not support the DREAM Act, is drafting what earlier this month he called a a bipartisan solution that “does not reward or encourage illegal immigration by granting amnesty, but helps accommodate talented young people like Daniela [Pelaez], who find themselves undocumented through no fault of their own.”
Pelaez, a Miami high school valedictorian whose order of deportation set off a series of protests in South Florida and other parts of the U.S., met with Rubio. She has been granted another two years in the U.S. by immigration authorities while her case makes its way through immigration courts.
Rep. David Rivera, R-Miami, who also met with Pelaez on the heels of the Miami protest, announced he would file the Studying Towards Adjusted Residency Status Act (the S.T.A.R.S. Act), which would allow undocumented immigrant youth who meet certain criteria to adjust their residency status.
“Sens. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) are also working on a [DREAM Act alternative] bill, although its details are being kept secret, according to congressional sources. Senate sources expect it to be unveiled after GOP front-runner Mitt Romney has clinched the presidential nomination,” The Hill reported.
Rubio endorsed Romney this week, praising the GOP presidential candidate’s experience with the private sector and the free enterprise system and his conservative credentials.
Will these GOP congressional DREAM Act alternatives appeal to Romney and his immigration advisor, Kris Kobach?
Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state, co-authored the hard-line Arizona and Alabama immigration enforcement laws. He said at the Conservative Political Action Conference panel earlier this year that the government should enforce programs like E-Verify, a federal workforce authorization program.
Kobach added that he never imagined the Department of Justice would sue states for their immigration laws, arguing that Congress has passed law after law to call on states to help the federal government with immigration policy, saying it is the Obama administration that does not want to allow states to have laws like the ones that exist in Arizona and Alabama, which implement “attrition through enforcement,” or what Romney calls “self-deportation.”
Kobach said attrition is a rational enforcement of the law, neither mass deportation nor amnesty, and the U.S. could be headed toward a national attrition through enforcement policy, because two GOP presidential candidates have said they support the strategy.
“If you want to create a job for an American citizen tomorrow, deport an illegal alien today,” Kobach argued.
Republicans, though, are aware that polls show that Romney trails Obama with Latino voters. According to The Hill, “Danny Diaz, a Republican strategist who worked on Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) 2008 presidential campaign, said Republicans recognize they need to improve their image among Hispanic voters.”
“This isn’t just about the presidential primary. This about how the party has handled the issue over the course of numerous cycles including midterm cycles,” Diaz told the paper.
GOP problems with Latino voters extend to Rubio. According to a Latino Decisions/Univision January 2012 poll, about 60 percent of Latino voters across the U.S. had no opinion or had never heard of Florida’s junior senator, who is of Cuban descent.
While some GOP elected officials and strategists reach out to Latino voters, progressive organizations have launched campaigns against Rubio, whom the Republicans and tea party supporters consider a rising national star.
Florida progressives launched Wrong Way Rubio this week. The site is “dedicated to shining a spotlight on Sen. Rubio’s extremist positions, numerous ethical lapses.” At the national level, in January Presente Action launched “No Somos Rubios,” a campaign that states that “Rubio does not stand with Latinos”: