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With Lamar Smith Calling the Shots, GOP Won't Solve its Immigration Problem with Latino Voters

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Rep. David Rivera’s Stripped-Down “DREAM Act” Doesn’t Pass the Legislative or Political Laugh Test

A story in today’s Congressional Quarterly reports that Rep. David Rivera (R-FL) is planning to introduce a dramatically stripped down version of the DREAM Act.  This is clearly an attempt by Rivera to provide political cover to Republicans who recognize the perils of the GOP’s strident anti-immigrant positioning.  Just one, rather large (and insurmountable) problem: any attempt to amend or soften the Republican Party’s immigration positioning runs smack dab into the person of Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and the leading anti-immigrant lawmaker in Congress.

Rep. Smith’s hard-line views are driving the Republican strategy on immigration both in Congress and on the campaign trail.  His “self deportation” approach – a radical strategy aimed at expelling 11 million undocumented immigrants from the country – is not only espoused by Romney advisor Kris Kobach, but by Romney himself.  During the 2010 legislative battle over the DREAM Act – a debate to which Spanish language media paid close attention – Rep. Smith infamously called the DREAM Act “an American nightmare.”  Not surprisingly, Mitt Romney announced recently that he would veto the DREAM Act if Congress were to approve it. 

Rep. Rivera, like political analysts and observers across the political spectrum, recognizes that the Republican Party is in big trouble with Latinos.  With the DREAM Act enjoying 90% support among Latino voters, it’s little wonder that Rivera is trying to throw a life line to Republicans.  He wants the GOP to pretend to be on the side of high-achieving young people who are Americans in all but paperwork.  Unfortunately for him and the GOP, there are two big problems with this strategy: 1) Compared to the DREAM Act, the Republican approach would help precious few people; and 2) as long as Rep. Smith and his anti-immigrant allies are calling the legislative shots, any reasonable measure that offers a path to citizenship to young immigrants is going nowhere.  In the end, Rep. Rivera’s effort has to be seen for what it is: a transparent attempt to provide political cover to a Party scrambling to re-brand itself to Latino voters. 

According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice, “As Republicans get desperate about their poor standing with Latino voters, they should focus their energies on standing up to Lamar Smith and his friends, instead of coddling him and the anti-immigrant leaders who are driving the GOP over the electoral cliff.  Rather than deluding themselves into thinking that message bills like Rep. Rivera’s will fool anyone, it’s time for Republicans to once again embrace the traditionally bi-partisan legislation DREAM Act as the way forward.”

America’s Voice — Harnessing the power of American voices and American values to win common sense immigration reform.