ACHIEVE Act Is Republican Lame-Duck Alternative To DREAM Act
A pair of retiring Republican U.S. Senators long-opposed to granting amnesty to illegal immigrants introduced a proposal Tuesday to let young adults illegally in the country earn legal permanent residency.
"We're not saying this is the end-all, be-all, but we're saying there is a very time-sensitive issue of these young people who have gone to schools in America, graduated from an American high school. They know no other country," Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson said.
The legislation is unlikely to get off the ground in the final month of Congress as lawmakers focus on reaching a deal to avert catastrophic tax raises in the new year. Still, the measure represents a significant milestone for Republicans, who did horrible at the polls earlier this month among the Latino electorate.
The so-called ACHIEVE Act from Hutchinson and Sen. Jon Kyl culminates a year of work on the issue, including consultation with Sens. Marco Rubio and John McCain. It would give people younger than 28 who entered the country after the age of 14 a visa to finish college or military service. The new W-1 visa would require the holder to regularly check-in with immigration officials. They would be barred from receiving federal welfare such as student loans. That visa could be transformed into four-year work visa and then finally a series of visas to stay in the country forever.
"It doesn't allow them to cut in line in front of people who have abided by the rules of our laws today. It doesn't keep them from applying under the rules today but it doesn't give them a special preference before those who have waited in line for years to get into the citizenship track," Hutchinson said.
The less restrictive DREAM Act failed in the Senate in Dec. 2010. President Barack Obama this summer created an administrative program to give some young adults in the country illegally work permits and deferrals from deportation.
Politico reported that Hutchison and Kyl said they hoped their successors – Republicans Ted Cruz of Texas and Jeff Flake of Arizona – would try to pass the Achieve Act during the next two years. Flake was a key GOP backer of comprehensive immigration reform while serving in the House, Politico said.
The race to replace Kyl was one of six Senate races being tracked by immigration advocacy group America's Voice. Four out of six races went to favorable candidates for comprehensive immigration reform while two, including Kyl's handoff to Flake, did not. Ten out of 15 House races went to candidates favored by America's Voice.
"While five races were won by anti-reform politicians, the demographic writing is on the wall for them and their party," America's Voice wrote in a press release Tuesday. "Get right on immigration reform and expand support from Latinos in future elections, or get ready for a forced retirement."
Attorney Raul Reyes panned the Republican proposal in an op-ed Monday on NBCLatino.com.
"Unfortunately, this may be the rare instance where it is better to 'dream' than to 'achieve,'" he wrote. "The Achieve Act is an inadequate imitation of the Dream Act. It creates no sure pathway to citizenship for undocumented youth, while saddling them with additional eligibility requirements. If Republicans are serious about immigration reform, they should dump this half-baked alternative to the real deal."