So Senator Marco Rubio is letting it be known that he is hard at work on a new version of the DREAM Act. The one supported by Obama and Dems would provide a path to citizenship for young illegal immigrants who serve in the military or attend college. The Obama/Dem version has been widely rejected by Republicans, who continue to embrace the ever more extreme rhetoric on immigration that’s apparently necessary to appeal to the GOP base.
The Times editorial board and Steve Benen both have good pieces on this, noting that Rubio’s version of the measure would only give young illegal immigrants legal status, but wouldn’t actually put them on a path to citizenship. As the Times puts it, this amounts to a “DREAM Act without the dream.”
But puting aside the substance of this, the timing is also noteworthy. Buried in a piece in the Hill on these developments was an interesting nugget: Another companion alternative DREAM Act measure that’s being worked on by two other GOP Senators, Jon Kyl and Kay Bailey Hutchinson, is set to be unveiled just after Mitt Romney clinches the nomination.
If there’s one thing that many Republicans agree upon, it’s that they have a serious Latino problem heading into this election. The GOP primary has forced the candidates so far to the right on immigration some GOP leaders privately worry it could lead to historic losses of Latino voters that could impact GOP downticket candidates. A failure by the GOP presidential candidate’ to make inroads among Latinos could help ensure Obama’s reelection, enabling him to hold on to western states like Colorado and to get to 270 despite losses in the Rust Belt.
It’s hard not to see the timing of the push for a new alternative DREAM Act in this context.
But ultimately, what this really shows us is that the framing of the discussion about the GOP’s Latino problem is all wrong. The problem isn’t a cosmetic one that can be fixed with the right kind of “outreach.” The problem seems to be that Republicans can’t adopt positions that would actually appeal to Latinos or genuinely be in their interests because they don’t seem to think the GOP base will let them.
If the only version of the DREAM Act that Congressional Republicans can bring themselves to support is one that doesn’t offer a path to citizenship to young immigrants in America who go to college or serve in the armed forces, then that seems more likely to epitomize the GOP’s Latino problem than to fix it.