Tuesday, November 27, 2012

GOP Dream Act unveiled

The Hill's Cameron Joseph reports:

Sens. John Kyl (R-Ariz.) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) on Tuesday introduced an alternative bill to the DREAM Act which would allow undocumented immigrants brought here as children to stay in the U.S. without an expedited pathway to citizenship.

The bill, called the "ACHIEVE Act," sets up a three-step visa system to allow many of those brought here at a young age to stay in the U.S..

The first visa would allow those enrolled in college or the military to stay for six years. After they graduate or leave the military they can then apply for another four-year work visa, and after that they can apply for four-year visas to allow them to stay legally in the country.

Kyl and Hutchison stressed that the bill would not allow anyone to move ahead of others applying for citizenship but that they could remain in the U.S. while applying through existing programs for citizenship, marking a key difference with Senate Democrats' proposals.

Three things about the politics of this.

1. Even though Marco Rubio was involved with the bill, this isn't his alternate DREAM Act which everyone's been buzzing about this year. His office notes the proposal is still in utero with a launch date of sometime next year.

Thus, for 2016 presidential purposes, this isn't the main event, although the current bill -- fail or not -- will certainly be a point of conversation in the 2016 conversation.

2. The GOP alternative doesn't go as far as the Democratic DREAM Act, which brings up the money question: Will Republicans be rewarded for this step or will Hispanics simply align with the party that's more generous on immigration?

That's kind of cynical, but hugely important.

RCP's Sean Trende made an important point earlier this month (emphasis added).

.... the simple fact is that the Democrats aren’t going to readily let Republicans get to their left on the issue in an attempt to poach an increasing portion of the Democratic base. If the GOP embraces things such as the DREAM Act, the Democrats can always up the ante.

That's why the GOP can't just do this for electoral rescue, since there's a pretty good chance Hispanics will gravitate toward the more generous plan. Instead, it has to have a moral motive that's beyond some political expectation. There's no political guarantee whatsoever.

3. Will Hispanic activist gatekeepers respond with realism?

There are some pro-immigrant activists who demagogue immigration to help the Democratic party, and should be labeled "pro-Democrat" far before "pro-immigrant." They push proposals they know will fail, so they can pin that failure on the GOP. Their all-or-nothing mentality usually produces nothing in the way of real reform.

But there's a much bigger number of pro-immigrant activists who understand that immigration reform at the legislative level is enormously tricky and any step in the right direction is a good step -- not one to be demagogued but cheered, embraced, and championed. 

So the big question is whether something can truly be achieved, or whether those (on both left and right) can once again sabotage reform in the name of reform.