U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio’s pared down version of the DREAM Act is running into skepticism from the leadership in both the Democratic and Republican parties.
Democrat leaders from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus who met with Rubio, a Florida Republican, over the plan on Wednesday said they were concerned about the lack of details about the senator’s plan, and the odds against it being passed in Congress.
“He doesn’t have a concrete piece of legislation, doesn’t provide any pathway to permanent residency, and doesn’t have any guarantees from House leadership or Romney,” said Sen. Robert Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey and and the only other Latino in the U.S. Senate, to Fox News Latino on Thursday. “So my impression is at this point this is nothing more than out-loud thinking.”
The Congressional Hispanic Caucus members who met with Rubio on Wednesday included Menendez, caucus chairman Rep. Charles González, of Texas, and Rep. Luis Gutiérrez, of Illinois and who heads the caucus immigration task force.
González said the meeting with Rubio offered some optimism about bipartisan cooperation on finding solutions to what to how to handle the hundreds of thousands of immigrants who were brought as minors and run into roadblocks when they try to attend college and get jobs.
Rubio's plan, González said, "is still a general idea."
"But the bottom line is that we agreed that deportation is not the only solution. That's the starting point."
On Thursday, House Speaker John A. Boehner, an Ohio Republican, gave a tepid response to reporters’ questions about Rubio’s plan-in-progress.
“I found it of interest,” Boehner was quoted as saying in published reports, “but the problem with this issue is that we’re operating in a very hostile political environment. To deal with a very difficult issue like this, I think it would be difficult at best.”
The Florida lawmaker’s proposal, which Rubio said last week is still being drafted, would give visas to undocumented immigrants --brought to the United States as children– if they attend college or serve in the military, but it would not give them legal U.S. permanent residency, casually referred to as “a green card.”
The DREAM Act that Democrats have pushed without success gives undocumented students brought as minors a chance to obtain permanent U.S. residency if they attend college or serve in the military, and eventually apply for citizenship if they desire.
The Democrat-driven version of the DREAM Act passed the House in 2010 but was defeated in the Senate by a 55-to-41 vote. In the Senate, three Republicans supported the measure, five Democrats voted no.
Rubio’s spokesman declined to comment.
But in interviews last week, Rubio said he was trying to find a workable compromise. He said he wanted to find a way to give undocumented immigrants who are here illegally through no fault of their own a chance to “legitimize” without rewarding the breaking of laws.
Rubio said he was working on the plan with the input of undocumented youth and DREAM Act advocates, and he expressed exasperation that his proposal was being slammed before it had seen the light of day.
He said that the accusation by critics that the proposal is an election-year ploy to help the GOP win more Hispanic voters was baseless.
Gutiérrez, one of the key proponents of the Democrats’ DREAM Act , said about Rubio’s plan: “I want to halt the deportation of immigrant families and youth with deep roots in the U.S. and I at least want to talk to people who have a similar goal."
“Sen. Rubio is still working on his proposal, so many details are fluid,” Gutiérrez said. “I left the meeting optimistic that we can continue to talk and share ideas. The big question that remains unanswered is how Sen. Rubio's proposal helps build support among Republicans in the House who oppose immigration reform.”
Meanwhile, some proponents of the older DREAM Act measure are concerned that undocumented youth will push for Rubio's version --albeit ambiguous right now-- out of desperation that it may their only hope at having a legal status and being able to drive and work.
"We're trying to find out what will the process be [under Rubio's plan], what will be available to the DREAM kids?" asked González.
"My advice to them is 'Wait until you know the specifics,'" he said. "But I'm not facing deportation, so my reaction may be different from someone who wakes up every day worrying about being deported."
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