Some in GOP take limited approach to Dream Act

The early reviews were not positive from those who could benefit most — children of immigrants.

STATESMAN WASHINGTON BUREAUJuly 24, 2013 

Two years ago, House Republicans would not hear of the Dream Act, rejecting as a “nightmare” the legislation to provide a path to citizenship for immigrants who were brought to the country as children and are here illegally as young adults.

Now, they’re taking a second look.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., is working on his own version that some Republicans hope could bridge the divide between the parties on an immigration overhaul, which has languished in the GOP-led House.

But it could also fall flat — with Republicans who reject any citizenship option for those not lawfully in the country and Democrats who dismiss it as too little, too late.

The approach was aired Tuesday at a House judiciary subcommittee hearing, as Republicans search for a way to respond to an issue that top party leaders say is vital for the GOP’s future.

Dreamers, as the young immigrants who have fought for the Dream Act call themselves, now reject the idea as a “childish” political game and vow not to leave behind the parents who struggled to give them better lives in the U.S.

They largely back the Senate bill, which would provide a 13-year process for citizenship for most of the 11 million immigrants in the country illegally. But House GOP leaders have said they will not take up that bill.

One young immigrant gave tearful testimony to the House subcommittee.

“When members of Congress tell me that I deserve an opportunity to earn citizenship, and my mother does not, I tell them that if anyone deserves that opportunity to earn citizenship, it is my mother,” said 30-year-old Rosa Velazquez, a graduate student in Arkansas.

Velazquez, who came to the United States from Mexico 25 years ago, described her mother’s job cutting chicken in a poultry factory.

“My mother’s working hands are the foundation on which this country was built,” she said. “I am my mother’s daughter. She and I are equal.”

Opponents, including Democrats on the panel, warned that to exclude most immigrants who are in the country illegally from the possibility of citizenship would create a permanent underclass.

But interest in the proposal from several key Republicans on the panel could signal broader support within the House GOP, setting up a possible showdown with Democrats.

“We all view children as a special, protected class,” said Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., the subcommittee chairman, who warned that holding out for the 11 million “will only wind up hurting the most vulnerable.”

Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas, said, “It seems to me it’s time we deal with these children in a very special way and bring them into our society.”

Those sentiments are a turnaround from two years ago when the Dream Act was narrowly approved by a Democratic-led House. The measure later died in the Senate.

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