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Marco Rubio's Dream Act: A nightmare for immigrants

April 20, 2012|By Raul A. Reyes
  • Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican, has proposed an alternative to the Dream Act.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican, has proposed an alternative to… (Associated Press )

In her April 18 Times Op-Ed article, "How Romney could win over Latinos," Tamar Jacoby urges Mitt Romney to support Sen. Marco Rubio's (R-Fla.) immigration bill, which she dubs "Dream 2.0," saying it would be "good for Romney, good for Republicans, good for many hopeful young immigrants and good for America." Yet she presents a misleading picture of this proposal, which would present a dead end for undocumented youth and betray the American values of assimilation and equality.   

The original federal Dream Act was designed to allow undocumented youth who were brought here as children a path to citizenship, provided they either served in the military or attended college. The new version gives these youth only a non-immigrant visa, and it seems designed to help Republicans soften their image with Latinos. Dream 2.0, floated by Rubio, seems conveniently timed to Romney's search for a running mate. It is no accident, by the way, that Romney has suddenly taken an interest in Latinos, after having alienated many with his extreme views on immigration during the primaries.  

Jacoby maintains that Dream 2.0 would not bar undocumented youth from citizenship. Really?  In a radio interview with Geraldo Rivera last month, Rubio explained how his Dream Act would be different from the original: "You can legalize someone's status in this country with a significant amount of certainty about their future, without placing them on a path toward citizenship." Earlier this month, he told the Miami Herald that his plan would not put anyone on a path to residency and legal citizenship "in and of itself." 

Here's the problem with Dream 2.0: It would create a tier of sub-citizens, which Jacoby acknowledges is not a desirable outcome.

Nor is Dream 2.0 "consistent with the best of Republican values," as Jacoby writes. Ronald Reagan believed that long-term residents of the U.S. deserved to become citizens, and he granted amnesty to nearly 3 million undocumented people. At various times, Republican Sens. John McCain, Jon Kyl and Orrin Hatch have supported comprehensive immigration reform, including a path to legalization for illegal immigrants. These humane efforts represent the best of Republican values, not a plan to create semi-Americans.  

Dream 2.0 is "not perfect," Jacoby concedes. She believes it is acceptable because it is better than nothing. I disagree. The whole point of the original Dream Act was not to punish undocumented youth for the illegal acts of their parents. Dream 2.0 would do the opposite, giving them something other than the green cards that provide them the promise of citizenship and full status as Americans. Jacoby wonders if an immigrant parent might accept Dream 2.0 for their child; I would ask her the same question: Would she accept second-class status for her kid?   

Jacoby believes Romney supporting Dream 2.0 would help him solve his "problem communicating with Latino voters." Romney has no such problem; rather, Latinos have heard him loud and clear. He promised he would veto the original Dream Act if elected; he believes Arizona, the state that empowered police officers to ask anyone for immigration papers, should be a "model" for the nation; and he thinks the undocumented should "self-deport."  Romney's problem with Latinos is entirely of his own making. Why should young immigrants compromise their dreams just to help him achieve his?

Jacoby implores Romney to support Dream 2.0 so members of the GOP will not be seen as "heartless villains." I urge him to reject it. The original Dream Act enjoyed bipartisan support because it was the right thing to do. Dream 2.0 should be seen for what it is: a divisive ploy to pander to Latinos. It is a faulty compromise at best -- and a nightmare at worst. 

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Raul A. Reyes is an attorney living in New York City.

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