When you get drubbed in an election and have to face the fact that your opponent won the vote of a growing contingent of the electorate – Latinos – by 44 percentage points, you can’t sit back on your haunches and continue to dismiss an entire population of voters by calling them “takers,” “freeloaders” and drains on the economy. Particularly when so many of them are hardworking, tax-paying members of the community, providing services that support almost every industry in the land.
So the Republicans, who have never shown much empathy for the plight of illegal aliens from south of our borders, have been in “reinvention” mode since November 6th, desperately seeking ways to be more relevant, more plugged into the cultural zeitgeist, and certainly more sensitive to that burgeoning demographic.
But never ones to embrace a Democratic proposal if there’s one they can call their own, three Republican Senators – John McCain (AZ), John Kryl (AZ) and Kay Bailey Hutchinson (TX) – have dreamed up the “Achieve Act,” the GOP counter-proposal to the Democrats’ Dream Act. As reported in The Washington Post:
The measure …would offer a Republican alternative to the so-called Dream Act, providing a pathway for young adults to apply for legal permanent residency — but not citizenship — if they have completed military service or higher education and have worked in the United States for at least four years.
Leading advocacy groups that push for immigration reform characterized the proposal as a half measure that would provide few new opportunities for normalization for young adults.
But Kyl said the measure is an effort to “get this ball rolling. We have to have a discussion that is sensible, that is calm, that discusses all of the different aspects of the issue.”
The Republicans deny that the Achieve Act is a response to the election, claiming they’ve been putting the pieces together on this over the last year, eager to find an alternative to the Democratic plan. The GOP plan would allow illegal immigrants under 28-years-old to stay in the country (as permanent residents, not as citizens) if they have no serious criminal record, are receiving no government assistance (including federal student loans) and are willing to complete schooling or military service.
Senator Richard Durbin (D-Ill), the lead Democrat on the Dream Act, had this response:
“We have some significant differences,” he said, noting that the Republicans did not discuss their measure with him before they introduced it. “But I appreciate their efforts to help.”
Some of those “significant differences”? From Fox News Latino:
The DREAM Act offers applicants temporary residency for a six-year period after completing two years of college or two years in the military. Within this period undocumented immigrants may then qualify for permanent residency, and as a permanent residents can later try the path to citizenship.
The DREAM Act establishes some conditions as well. Undocumented youth adjusting to lawful permanent resident status are only eligible for federal student loans –no grants– which must be paid back, and federal work-study programs, where they must work for any benefit they receive. They would not eligible for federal grants, such as Pell Grants.
At this point, given the primary focus on matters of the economy in the lame-duck session that ends this month, the Republican team has little hope their measure will be given more than cursory attention. Still, they wanted to get it on the table; if nothing else, to show their eagerness to present a new face to their increasingly Latino populations.
When the new session begins, with both Acts under consideration, it will remain to be seen whether those seeking a way towards legal status will be dreaming or…achieving.