Immigration politics

Dream Act plan has unlikely backers, foes

By The Mercury

The Republicans who control the House of Representatives seem to have realized that Mitt Romney’s vision of immigration reform, which involves the “self-deportation” of illegal immigrants, is a nonstarter.

But they want no part of the comprehensive immigration reform that the Senate approved earlier this year. The Senate bill is not without flaws, but it reasonably addresses most of the important issues, including funding more border security than is necessary. But for House Republicans, the pathway to citizenship — “amnesty” to GOP demagogues — is a deal killer.

Still, House Republican leaders know they have to do more than denounce the Senate bill, particularly given that it received Republican support. House Republicans need a bill of their own to demonstrate that they take the issue seriously — and to woo Latino voters.

House GOP leaders are working on a measure that resembles the Dream Act, a bill that the then-Democratic House approved in 2010 but that died in the Senate.

That bill deserved better. It provided hope to children who grew up in the shadows of this country that they could continue to live here as adults. Furthermore, that bill was the only aspect of immigration reform that had even a chance of becoming law.

The Dream Act concept looks better to House Republican leaders now than it did then. But as Republicans develop their own version of a Dream Act — Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Judiciary Chair Bob Goodlatte, who opposed the 2010 Dream Act, are behind the effort — Democrats are wasting no time condemning the idea. That’s unfortunate.

It’s hard to judge which is more cynical —  House support for a bill that would let the children of illegal immigrants remain in the country while continuing to call for the deportation of their parents, or Democratic opposition to a proposal that they would have considered a genuine triumph not so long ago.

Democrats, including the White House, are correct to seek more comprehensive immigration reform. The best approach is one that deals with the economic and humanitarian issues associated with the present system while also addressing border security. But the vehemence of some Democrats’ comments about a stand-alone GOP Dream Act proposal suggests that they’re less concerned about the children of illegal immigrants than they are about Republicans making inroads in a Democratic voting bloc.

Condemning this proposal because it would deal with only one part of a multifaceted issue is an insult to the many young people who need a long-term solution to their tenuous legal status.

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