Senate Republicans circulating draft of DREAM Act alternative

I can’t understand why Senate Democrats would agree to this. Republicans are in a panic over the Latino vote; liberals have never had them in a more vulnerable position than they do now. If you’re Harry Reid or Chuck Schumer, why let the GOP off easy by settling for a limited amnesty that helps Republicans repair their image with Latinos while legalizing only a subset of the illegal population? Why not drive the hardest bargain you can and go for broke with full-blown comprehensive immigration reform? If the DREAM Act passes, it might embolden some GOP fencesitters into voting no later on a comprehensive bill on the theory that they’ve already done their duty by compromising on immigration. If I were Reid, I’d tell McConnell et al. that there’s no deal on DREAM unless it’s bundled into an omnibus immigration bill that addresses illegals of all ages.

Essentially, the proposal involves several tiers: W-1 visa status would allow an immigrant to attend college or serve in the military (they have six years to get a degree). After doing so, they would be eligible to apply for a four-year nonimmigrant work visa (also can be used for graduate degrees.)

Next, applicants would be eligible to apply for a permanent visa (no welfare benefits.) Finally, after a set number of years, citizenship “could follow…”

Many conservatives, of course, opposed the DREAM Act because it creates a special pathway to citizenship, allowing illegal immigrants to get in line ahead of other immigrants who are following the rules, and potentially creating a problem of chain migration.

The ACHIEVE Act seems to resolve this problem by granting undocumented children nonimmigrant visas so that they can go to school and work in the U.S., and, after a decade, or so, puts them on the regular pathway towards permanent residence (and potentially, citizenship.)

Follow the link up top for Matt Lewis’s list of eligibility qualifications. Applicants are limited to those 28 years old or younger (32 if they have a B.A.) who arrived in America before their 14th birthday. They need to have lived here for five years, “have knowledge of the English language,” and no criminal record beyond one misdemeanor. Rest assured that if the bill passes, all of these requirements will be summarily attacked in court by immigration lawyers in hopes of having them expanded or nullified, especially the provision excluding any new illegals who arrived within the past five years. Likewise, if there’s no pathway to citizenship included in the original bill because that’s where GOP fencesitters draw the line, Democrats will get straight to work afterward on pushing for an amendment to add one. (That “amendment” may come in the form of a larger comprehensive bill if this somehow does end up passing before they take that up.) Amnesty without citizenship is pointless for the left; labor groups aren’t thrilled about adding millions of new workers who’ll bid wages down but they’ll grudgingly accept it if it means millions more votes for organized labor’s political patrons. And in fairness, it’d be bizarre to grant someone a permanent visa under ACHIEVE on the theory that they’re part of America and blameless for the illegality that brought them here while also telling them that they can never, ever be eligible to fully participate in American democracy by voting. Second-class citizenship could cause more problems than a straight amnesty.

As for the politics, I think this is as coherent a case as can be made:

[I]f there is a path to citizenship for [illegals and permanent legal residents], it will only increase the already fast-rising clout of the Latino vote, which could be twice as big as it is now by 2030, according to Pew. What’s more, it’s hard to see former illegal immigrants and permanent residents voting against the party that gave them a path to citizenship.

Immigration, of course, isn’t the only issue that matters to Latino voters — and too often coverage of them suggests it is — but it is an issue which is very important to a very large portion of these voters.

And if immigration reform gets done without the GOP being on board, whether in this Congress or in the near future, it will be even worse for Republicans than 2012 was. Whatever problems they have with Latinos now, they will pale to the day when the GOP is matched up against a Democratic Party that successfully passed immigration reform without much or any Republican involvement.

Yeah. Any caving that the GOP does now isn’t about winning new votes, it’s about preventing further losses. Essentially, they’ll be trying to freeze their disadvantage with Latinos at 71/27 to buy time so that they can figure out a way to try to win back some voters and reduce the Democrats’ advantage. Problem is, even with a shift ongoing among Republicans on this issue, any amnesty bill is still going to pass primarily with Democratic support. (If it gets through the House, it may well be that only a minority of Republicans end up supporting it.) It’s a Democratic president who’ll sign it into law. If you’re a voter who cares about this issue, the lesson will be that you’re better off lining up with Democrats — at least in the near term — because (a) the Democrats get results and (b) Republicans will do most anything they can to try to get back in your good graces. Meanwhile, we’ll have ended up setting millions of people on a path to citizenship, and if the last 30 years are any guide, at best those voters are likely to break roughly 60/40 for Democrats on election day. Ronald Reagan amnestized millions of people in his second term. A few years later, his VP got a smaller share of the Latino vote than he did. Four years after that, he got a smaller share still. And four years after that, Bob Dole bottomed out at 21%. For all the angst over Romney’s showing among Latino voters this year, as a share of the electorate he actually did better than Bush in ’92 and Dole in ’96. If the GOP’s going to do amnesty, it had better do it because it fervently believes it’s the right thing to do. That’s the only way to justify the electoral losses it’s going to take from this.

Here’s Marco Rubio talking policy today with Major Garrett at the Aspen Institute. The immigration section starts at around 9:30. He said recently that he supports more border enforcement before dealing with amnesty questions, and he has a good line here about people not being willing to hear you out if they think you want to deport their grandmother. But as I say, that’s why immigration advocates will eventually push for full amnesty for everyone, no matter what restrictions are imposed in DREAM or ACHIEVE or comprehensive immigration reform. Will people hear us out if you make clear that you don’t want to deport grandma but also don’t want her to vote? She’s part of the country, after all. And she’s really impressed with the next generation of Democratic candidates.

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