Florida Sen. Marco Rubio is quietly working on a new version of the DREAM Act to allow young undocumented immigrants a chance to stay in the U.S. legally while seeking citizenship, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
The bill is a political tightrope for Rubio — widely regarded as a potential vice presidential pick because of Florida’s crucial role in deciding the electoral college.
Rubio told the Tampa Bay Times his version would require those eligible to wait in line, but stay in the country legally while doing so. Critics say the proposal falls short of what’s needed:
“The Republican Party should not be labeled as the anti-illegal immigration party,” Rubio said. “Republicans need to be the pro-legal immigration party.”
Now comes his Dream Act alternative, which would give legal status to college students and members of the military. Rubio says he was spurred by Daniela Pelaez, a North Miami High School valedictorian who faced deportation…
Some experts doubt his proposal — which stands little chance of passing while Democrats control the Senate — would have the intended effect or would even work.
“It’s clearly not intended to do the same thing as the Dream Act,” said Gabriel Sanchez, research director for Latino Decisions, a nonpartisan polling group. “The Latino population is more sophisticated on the immigration issue than the non-Latino population. I think they’ll be able to read through this.”
Past versions of the DREAM Act would allow college-bound students or those enlisting in the military an inside track to becoming citizens. But those proposals have been defeated in Congress by those concerned about endorsing illegal immigration.
Republicans have pushed a strict anti-illegal immigration agenda in recent years — typified by tough laws in Arizona and Alabama.
A modified version of the DREAM Act could help temper those GOP positions among Hispanic voters seen as a key component to President Barack Obama’s reelection. Florida’s Cuban community reliably votes Republican, but Rubio could draw in voters of other Spanish-speaking origins.
Rubio’s proposal could also serve as a model for addressing the issue in Florida, where state residency requirements forbid even U.S. born children of undocumented immigrants from receiving in-state tuition rates at state colleges and universities.
Florida lawmakers have consistently voted against a state version of the DREAM Act.