WASHINGTON, November 30, 2012 — When is half a loaf better than a whole loaf? The Republicans think it’s when it comes to the DREAM Act. They have just offered up their own version of the DREAM Act, called the Achieve Act, but it leaves out one important component: a path to citizenship.
Sponsored by Senators John McCain (R-Ariz.), Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tex.) and Jon Kyle (R-Ariz.), Achieve would give legal residency to those undocumented young people brought here as children by their parents and the Act is seen by many Republicans as the first step in reaching out to Latino voters, who voted overwhelmingly — by 44 percentage points — in favor of President Obama over Governor Mitt Romney.
Advocacy groups pushing for immigration reform call it a half measure that does not address the real problem for these young people, the ability to earn full citizenship, especially since they themselves broke no law by being in this country.
The Achieve Act, launched by three senators from Border States, is a recognition by some in the Republican Party that there is a problem with Latinos viewing the GOP negatively. The Achieve Act seems to be a way of saying, “See, we do care about Latinos.” And no, it is not the whole loaf, but it’s something, they point out.
Sen. Hutchinson said she felt it was better to tackle small pieces of immigration reform one step at a time thanks to the lack of bipartisanship cooperation. However, Achieve Act would cover far fewer young people than would the DREAM Act.
Here’s the outline of what the Achieve Act would require:
1. You would have had to been brought here before you were 14, you are now younger than 29 and currently enrolled in a college program or have served in the military.
2. If you are younger than 32 and already have a college degree, you would qualify for the Achieve Act.
3. However, if you are currently in high school or have already graduated but are not in college, then Achieve would not apply to you.
4. After college graduation, you could then apply for a work visa that would be renewed every four years and for a green card, ultimately getting in line to apply for citizenship. Basically Achieve Act acts like a new kind of visa for undocumented youth.
5. Achieve would also require that you not have a serious criminal record and agree not to request government benefits, including federal student loans.
“We think the best thing that we can do to utilize their talents and the education they have received is to give them a legal status,” said Hutchison during a news conference in the Capitol.
However, young people could also remain in limbo for most of their adult lives, living and working in America, paying taxes, raising families, but never getting citizenship.
This is why the Democrats have give short shrift to the Achieve Act, insisting that the original DREAM Act, which ultimately leads to full citizenship, is the only route to follow. After all, these young people have lived in this country most of their lives and consider themselves Americans. And they are Americans in everything but taking the oath itself.
Sen. Kyl recognizes the problems with his bill, but he is not planning to amend it. Instead he has suggested that if undocumented young people might consider marriage to an American as a path to citizenship. And he’s not joking. Here is what he said in an interview:
“KYL: Realistically, young people frequently get married. In this country, the biggest marriage pool are U.S. citizens. A U.S. citizen can petition for a spouse to become a citizen in a very short time, around a year, so I don’t think it’s any big secret that a lot of people who might participate in this program are going to have a very quick path to citizenship, if that’s the path they choose.” (See video of Kyl at the end of the column)
So short of a quickie marriage, the best hope for DREAMers is for the DREAM Act to pass Congress in 2013 and for Congress to then start working on real immigration reform. Passage of the DREAM Act would be a good first step in that direction.
To contact Catherine Poe, see above. Her work appears in Ad Lib at the Communities @ WashingtonTimes.com. She can also be heard on Democrats for America’s Future. She is also a contributor to broadcast, print and online media
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