The New Dream Act Is Only an Act

By Miguel Perez

June 5, 2012 6 min read

As if young undocumented immigrants had not been disillusioned enough over the past few years. As if Washington politicians had not done enough to thrash their hopes and aspirations by rejecting the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act, now some Republicans are selling them a new impossible dream.

First we had Sen. Marco Rubio teasing them with a yet-to-be clearly defined "light version" of the DREAM Act, and now we have Rep. David Rivera selling them another pipe dream.

It's an act all right — designed to score cheap political points!

On this issue, the two Florida Latinos have little to zero support within their own party in Congress. And yet, in their eagerness to save the GOP from getting clobbered by Latino voters in November, they seem to be trying to fool their own Latino constituents by pretending that the Republican Party can be compassionate.

But it's having the opposite effect. When they can't even get support for their watered-down compassion, they demonstrate just how mean-spirited their party has become and how much it has distanced itself from the Hispanic community.

Rubio, a potential vice presidential contender, has been unable to get presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney to support even his terribly diluted version of the legislation — although it doesn't even include a path to citizenship for these young people who were brought here as children and consider themselves Americans.

And on a Sunday morning Telemundo talk show, Rivera could not name a single Republican in Congress who supports his legislation, which allows for a path to citizenship but applies to a much smaller group of people than would have been covered by the DREAM Act.

Their proposals offer so much less than the DREAM Act that some cynics believe they are meant to get Democrats to reject them, so that later Republicans can claim that it was the Democrats who stood in the way of immigration reform.

Even though Rivera's bill would exclude a huge number of "dreamers" and Rubio's proposal would deny them citizenship and create an underclass of residents, Democrats wisely have gone along with their ideas.

Immigrant advocates are saying they'll take whatever they can get. Even some dreamers who would not qualify under the Republican proposals have come out and called their bluff. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, the most outspoken immigrant rights advocate in Congress, has said he is willing to "keep an open mind.

"It is so rare lately that Republicans are interested in seriously discussing the immigration issue, so I want to be encouraging and keep an open mind," Gutierrez said. "I am open to talking to anyone who has practical ideas about how to end the deportations that are splitting up families and destroying the dreams and futures of our young people."

Practical ideas?

Well, let's see: Rubio's elusive proposal is not totally spelled out because he is obviously unable to get his fellow Republicans to agree to any provision that would allow these young people to stay here legally. And Rivera's bill — the Studying Towards Adjusted Residency Status Act — would apply only to students who were brought to this country before age 16, kept out of trouble, graduated from high school and were accepted to four-year colleges or universities.

While the Dream Act, passed by the House and defeated in the Senate in 2010, would have granted legal status and a path to citizenship to undocumented immigrants — up to age 29 — who took some college courses or served in the military, the STARS Act lowers that cutoff to age 19 and excludes even community college students.

No one really knows how many young undocumented immigrants would be left to qualify, but it would be much less under STARS than DREAM.

Nevertheless, by today's Republican standards — with a xenophobia-pandering, presumptive GOP nominee who has vowed to veto the DREAM Act — these could be suicidal moves by Latino Republicans. On the conservative blogosphere, xenophobes already are predicting that Rivera, who just got to Congress, will soon have a Tea Party challenger.

You almost feel sorry for Latino Republican politicians and their hacks. Caught between the interests of their predominantly pro-immigrant constituents and their discrimination-pandering party, we see them squirming on television as they try to defend mean-spirited measures and rhetoric directed at their own people.

In this presidential election year, Latinos who pretend to speak for Republicans have the toughest jobs in American politics. Even when they become the devil's advocates and shamelessly betray the interests of their own community, we can't help feeling sorry for them. It's embarrassing.

To find out more about Miguel Perez and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

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