Good-Bye DREAM; Hello ACHIEVE: GOP Contemplates a Partial Surrender

Florida’s Marco Rubio has floated his version of the DREAM Act for consideration by his spineless fellow Senate Republicans. Rubio’s plan, called the ACHIEVE Act, has several tiers, most of which we’ve seen tied to other proposed amnesty legislation.

The first step would create a new non-immigrant visa category, the“W-1”which would allow an illegal immigrant to attend college or serve in the military. Students would have six years to complete their advanced education before they would be able to apply for a four-year non-immigrant work visa or attend graduate school. After phase one is complete, the W-1 visa holder can apply for permanent residency that would not include welfare benefits but also could lead to citizenship.

Those who would qualify have the same profile the students who would have been included in the federal DREAM Act: entered the country at age 14 or younger, be 28 or younger at the time of application, lived in the United States for five years before the ACHIEVE Act becomes law, have good moral character, speak English and pay a $525 fee. Rubio defines good moral character as having no felony convictions and not more than one misdemeanor with a jail term of 30 days or less.

Rubio and others like retiring Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson have been working on what they called their modified DREAM Act version since before President Obama rendered the idea irrelevant through his executive order granting deferred action to alien youth.

Whether Rubio will be able to sell his legislation to the Senate is unclear. While Rubio may get most of the Senate Republican votes, eager as they are to trip all over themselves in their self-defeating Hispanic outreach, Democrats will pose the tougher challenge.

To date, Democrats have given no indication of bargaining on anything immigration related. During the last two years, Republican legislators have floated trial balloons to Democratic leadership to see if it would be willing to barter an exchange that might involve giving up the diversity visa, chain migration or anchor baby citizenship for a modified DREAM Act aimed at the truly exceptional students. The Democrats have flatly refused any such idea. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, the Hispanic Congressional Caucus and the firmly entrenched Capitol Hill Hispanic lobbyists will not budge an inch on even the most egregious and unnecessary immigration policies.

Although the ACHIEVE Act is merely in preliminary draft form, Hispanic activists have already rejected it. Cesar Vargas, director of the DREAM Act coalition, wrote:

“If Republicans want to show they are willing to find a solution on immigration, let’s make the DREAM Act a starting point. The DREAM Act has polled more than 90% amongst Latinos according to Latino Decisions, and recently polled majority support from the general public according to ABC News.” [DREAM Act, not the ACHIEVE Act, Is the Right Solution for Undocumented Youth, by Cesar Vargas, The Hill, November 19, 2012]

Based on the questionable polling he cited, Vargas concluded that the ACHIEVE Act has “less support” and is “less popular” than the DREAM Act.

The congressional stage may be set for another “whole enchilada” show down. Veteran patriotic immigration reform stalwarts recall that in 2001 Mexican foreign minister Jose Castañeda demanded that the U.S. deliver the “whole enchilada”—-meaning amnesty, legal permanent residency and eventual citizenship to every illegal Mexican then living in the United States. Castañeda and President Vicente Fox repeatedly failed to get any form of amnesty.

Please go to the CAPS Legislative Alert here to tell Congress to resist calls for amnesty.

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