Rubio’s DREAM Puts Mitt in a Bind

Marion Herbert's picture
Friday, April 20, 2012

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio has thrust himself into the raging illegal immigration debate, proposing a plan that would create a path to legal status for children of illegal immigrants.

This could put him at odds with an immoveable wing of the Republican Party on this issue.

It’s a risky move for a potential vice presidential candidate, and it puts presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney in a pickle as he may have to decide whether to back an immigration plan rolled out by one of the party’s rising Hispanic stars, or stick to the strident anti-illegal immigrant positions he staked out during the Republican primary.

Rubio understands full well he’s swimming in turbulent waters. He invited reporters to his office on Thursday to talk about his own version of the Democratic DREAM Act, which would allow some children of illegal immigrants to obtain legal status in the United States. Rubio’s version does not have a citizenship option, as Democrats propose, but it would open the door for children of illegal immigrants who have completed high school to be awarded “non-immigrant visas” before obtaining a more permanent status.

The Romney camp is closely watching Rubio’s moves on immigration, and campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul said the former Massachusetts governor would “study and consider” Rubio’s proposal when he eventually unveils it.

“Mitt Romney is the leader of the Republican Party now,” Rubio told a small gathering of reporters in his conference room. “Our hope would be to come up with something that he could be supportive of,” said Rubio, a son of Cuban immigrants.

Rubio’s plan would not affect children brought to the U.S. in the future, only ones who currently reside in the country. And it would not affect a much bigger problem: The millions of adults who came illegally and are undocumented workers. But it aims to deal with an emotionally vexing issue over how to deal with children brought in illegally through no fault of their own, giving them a chance to win legal status through the existing immigration system.

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