Probably the biggest driver behind President Obama's fairly comfortable win here and Shelley Berkley nearly toppling Dean Heller in the US Senate race was El Voto Latino. Heller has certainly been thinking about this since Election Day. And this may be the key reason why he's not touching the new Republican immigration bill.
The authors of the [Achieve Act], Republican Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison and Jon Kyl, are retiring at the end of the year, and there’s not enough time left in the legislative calendar to get a comprehensive immigration discussion going before the start of the new congressional session in January.
Perhaps more important, unlike the Dream Act, their proposal doesn’t include a concrete pathway to citizenship for young immigrants brought to the country illegally, which leading Democrats have said is their bottom line on immigration reform from which they will not budge.
In recent weeks, even some Republicans — including Nevada Sen. Dean Heller — have adopted an outlook on immigration that includes a pathway to citizenship.
Heller told the Sun this month he supports citizenship for young, undocumented immigrants who enroll in college or enlist in the military — the two target populations of the Dream Act. He also said he was talking with Florida Sen. Marco Rubio — who has taken the lead on immigration reform — about the future of a comprehensive bill. [...]
Though Hutchison and Kyl credited Rubio with playing an important advisory role in the drafting of their bill, he was noticeably not listed as a co-sponsor to the legislation they unveiled Tuesday.
Neither was Heller. In fact, Heller hadn’t even seen the bill when the Sun asked him about it. Rubio also was silent.
So what exactly is the Achieve Act? Basically, it's Republican leaders' latest half-assed attempt to respond to the DREAM Act and offer some sort of realistic immigration reform.
The measure — sponsored by Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), and retiring Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison (Tex.) and Jon Kyl (Ariz.) —would offer a Republican alternative to the so-called Dream Act, providing a pathway for young adults to apply for legal permanent residency —but not citizenship —if they have completed military service or higher education and have worked in the United States for at least four years.
And even this still squarely falls into the EPIC FAIL category. Why? Well, why should young people be treated as criminals because they were brought across the border as children? Why should they be denied a chance at becoming American citizens as this country is the place they've come to know and love? So they can stay, but they can't be fully integrated into society?
And Republicans wonder why Latino voters have tuned them out? This is why! Do these Republicans really think they can treat DREAMers with such disrespect, champion policies of extreme racial profiling, obstruct any and all policies meant to promote economic empowerment in Latin@ communities, and then try to erase away all the blemishes they earned this year by proposing this? Apparently, someone smart explained this to Dean Heller in a way he could understand.
Already, immigrant rights advocates are turning down this "What Are They Trying to Achieve?" Act. This really should not be a surprise. Again, this has already been weighed and found wanting.
The DREAM Act is already conservative in nature and has even gathered support in the past from prominent conservative leaders, including Senator Hutchison herself, Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.).
The American people certainly appreciate the proactive efforts of the Republican leadership for beginning to engage in the conversation of immigration. However, voters, specially Latino voters, spoke clearly on election day that they support the original DREAM Act. Mitt Romney garnered only 27 percent of the Latino vote, primarily due to his threat to veto the DREAM Act.
Indeed, the ACHIEVE Act complicates an issue that the Republican senators have admitted is “a strong starting point” and “a humanitarian issue.” For example, for Dreamers interested in serving this country, a strange visa such as the "W-1" status does not currently let someone join the military voluntarily, so unless they also amend the law to allow such persons to enlist, the ACHIEVE Act won't help much.
Republicans lost Latinos big this election, but some have already committed themselves to fight against the DREAM Act no matter how popular it is. And using the ACHIEVE Act is a way to avoid a solution and politicize the issue. The fight for a common sense immigration reform will not be easy; and this fight is not only for undocumented youth, but also for the parents who took the brave step to give these young people a better life. Nevertheless, undocumented youth will not give up on the DREAM Act.
Not too long ago, the DREAM Act was considered a bipartisan first step for comprehensive immigration reform. But now, all of a sudden, we're supposed to believe that the DREAM Act is "too radical" for Republicans? And that all that can pass is some half-assed crap that relegates DREAMers to permanent second or third class status? No wonder why Republicans continue to struggle with Latin@ voters!
And no wonder why Dean Heller continues to distance himself from the bulk of his own party. And he may not be the only one doing so, especially on this issue. This may be what Harry Reid is counting on. After all, this may the only way of keeping the dream of political survival alive for certain Republican politicians.