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A consensus seems to be emerging across party lines that it is a good idea to protect young undocumented immigrants who have grown up in America. But while talk of a legislative breakthrough this year sounds nice, what Latino voters really want to see is action.
As Julia Preston of the New York Times reports today, DREAM-eligible youth have launched a campaign a campaign calling on President Obama to use his executive authority to provide administrative relief. And while there is some movement on the Republican side of the aisle in favor of legislation, there is also stagnation. Senator Marco Rubio is preparing to introduce a conservative version of the DREAM Act and Rep. David Rivera (R-FL) has introduced two bills aimed at protecting DREAM-eligible youth. However, these bills are unlikely to become law this year. Speaker Boehner (R-OH) has already dismissed the Rubio plan and even Representative Francisco “Quico” Canseco told Telemundo that “there is no support in the House, right now.”
This despite the fact that both the Rivera and yet-to-be-introduced Rubio bills are far narrower and stingier than the traditional DREAM Act. In contrast to DREAM, Rep. Rivera’s STARS Act covers far fewer people, restricting eligibility to those attending 4-year college and universities who are 19 or younger (or who are 21 years or younger but received “voluntary departure” status before age 19). Although the bill leaves out a large number of young people who came here as children and grew up in America, the STARS Act actually includes an eventual path to citizenship for the few who qualify – which is more than Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) has promised in regards to his still un-introduced but highly-publicized version.
Rubio told Fox News in early May, “we don’t create any special pathways. We use the existing immigration system to deal with a humanitarian issue… So, we use the existing immigration system. We give them a non- immigrant visa, which we do now for people that we’re allowing to stay here legally and study and work. And at some point in the future, if they decide they want to stay here permanently, as I suspect most of them will, they will be able to do so but they’ll to avail themselves of the existing system.”
On the Democratic side of the aisle, the DREAM Act remains a priority for champions such as Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), Harry Reid (D-NV), Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) and many others. Despite votes from 55 Senators, passage in the U.S. House, and support from the strong majority of the public, the DREAM Act narrowly failed to become law in December 2010 – and Republican intransigence and obstruction remains entrenched. Due to the grim prospect for congressional action, 22 Democratic Senators signed and sent a letter to President Obama in 2011 that urged the President to use his lawful authority to protect DREAMers.
Does President Obama have the authority to take such action? Yes, say nearly 100 law professors. In a memo organized by the DREAMers, the legal experts argue the President has “clear executive authority” in these matters. As DREAM leader Lorella Praeli told Preston, “It’s not a question of whether the president can or can’t. It’s a question of whether he will or he won’t.” Tomorrow, Friday June 1st at 11 AM Eastern, DREAM leaders and some of the law professors who signed the memo will gather on a press call for reporters to discuss their campaign, the legal authority memo, and related matters (to join, dial: 1-800-862-9098; with “DREAM” as the passcode).
Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice said, “Support is growing for the simple proposition that now is the time to protect the DREAMers. But let’s get real. Even with some Republicans beginning to make moves, in hopes of repositioning the GOP on an issue that is killing them with the nation’s fastest growing group of voters, the fact is there is no realistic chance that DREAM can pass Congress this year–not with hardliners dominating the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. That is why it is imperative that the President step up and do what’s right. Mr. President, you said during the State of the Union Address: …if election-year politics keeps Congress from acting on a comprehensive plan, let’s at least agree to stop expelling responsible young people who want to staff our labs, start new businesses, defend this country.” Mr. President, you are right, the consensus is growing and you have the authority. Now is the time.”