Rubio's DREAM: Will it win Latinos to the GOP?

Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio has never fully supported the DREAM Act, but he says he has always supported the idea behind it: Undocumented immigrant children don’t bear responsibility for the decision of their parents to bypass the legal immigration process, and they shouldn’t be made to bear that responsibility. Rubio wants to propose a modified version of the DREAM Act, one that won’t incentivize “chain migration,” but that also won’t relegate children to “shadow” status in this country. reports:

In an April 1 interview with liberal commentator Juan Williams on Fox News Latino, Rubio said he does not support the DREAM Act as currently drafted. But he said he would sponsor a proposal that incorporates the “idea” of helping young illegal immigrants by providing them with a special visa to allow them to stay in the country legally while waiting in line to get citizenship.

Rubio has not yet published a specific proposal of his “idea” and has only provided broad details of what the alternative DREAM Act would entail.

“I support the idea behind the DREAM Act, which is to help these young kids. I don’t support the DREAM Act as currently drafted because it allows for chain migration, because it creates a pathway to citizenship that can potentially encourage illegal immigration in the future,” Rubio told Williams.

“I do support, and I have consistently supported, even during my campaign, I’ve supported the notion that we need to accommodate these kids that, through no fault of their own, find themselves in this legal limbo,” he said.  “But we have to do it the right way. And so I’m actively engaged in working with my colleagues, and with outside groups, and with anyone who would work with me to craft a solution that helps deal with this issue, but doesn’t do it in a counter-productive way.”

It sounds as though Rubio wants to allow children in the country illegally to apply for certain types of visas — but it’s unclear whether they’d be guaranteed those visas. If their presence is guaranteed to be made legal in the United States, then it’s hard to see how Rubio’s DREAM wouldn’t still unfairly reward parents’ decision to forgo the legal immigration process. If their presence isn’t guaranteed to be made legal, then it’s hard to believe kids would apply for the visas and risk punishment for the revelation that they (and, by extension, their parents) are in the country illegally.
It seems safe to say, though, that any type of outreach on this issue couldn’t hurt the GOP’s chances with Latino voters — and that fact will probably make Rubio’s DREAM appealing to Romney and other party leaders who’ve rejected DREAM as it stands now and might welcome the opportunity to soften their stance on help for alien minors.
Neither the current version nor Rubio’s version will solve the illegal immigration problem, though. The system itself is in desperate need of reform — and the reward for tackling the issue would probably be about as great as the reward Paul Ryan has received for tackling entitlement reform. There just isn’t much political incentive to dig into the nitty gritty of the actual immigration process. Until someone does, though, the risk-reward calculus will continue to favor illegal immigration over legal immigration and, every 10 to 20 years, we’ll have to decide again how best to assimilate the immigrants who’ve entered our country illegally and managed to live and work here for years.