Some say it’s an olive branch to Latino voters — others are more enthusiastic, calling it a revelation. Whatever it is, Republican politicians have proposed a version of the Dream Act to allow certain undocumented immigrants to stay in the United States. Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson introduced the bill, called the Achieve Act, last week.
Upon introducing the bill, Senator Hutchinson argued for its superiority over the Democratic plan, saying, “I think ours is better than the Dream Act because it doesn’t allow [undocumented immigrants] to cut in line in front of people who have come and abided by the rules of our laws today.”
But not everyone has been persuaded by Senator Hutchinson’s argument. Maria Hinojosa, the host of NPR’s Latino USA, points out that the Achieve Act would not provide undocumented immigrants with a pathway to citizenship — one of the main components of the Dream Act.
Instead, says Hinojosa, “What the Republican plan…would do is extend new visas to people younger than 28 who were brought to the United States before the age of 14 and who have no serious criminal records.”
Hinojosa also reads into the fact that two outgoing senators introduced the bill. “This is the time to watch the internal debate in the Republican Party in terms of Latino voters and in terms of immigration reform,” she argues. “So, if you step back and you say, ‘you know, it seems like the Republicans who can only be attentive to broader forms of immigration reform are the ones who are leaving their elected seats’? It seems like it communicates to many in the Latino electorate that the Republican Party is essentially not there yet.”
Many are eager to connect the recent presidential election, in which Latino voters turned out to support President Obama in record numbers, to the GOP’s newfound openness to immigration reform. “I think the election results send a very clear message to Republicans, especially those in states with large Latino populations, that they need to have smarter solutions on immigration,” argues Matt Barreto, co-founder of the polling firm Latino Decisions.
“It’s a reaction to the election, no doubt,” agrees Hinojosa. However, she argues, it may not be a strong enough stance to woo Latino voters to the Republican Party.
“These Republicans want to go piecemeal, step-by-step — the [Achieve Act] first, maybe something else here, but no citizenship,” Hinojosa explains. “Immigrant activists are saying, ‘Look, Mr. President, you owe us now more than ever. Piecemeal will only satisfy the Republicans. Do something inclusive, comprehensive. Satisfy immigrants, satisfy Latino voters, and lock in Latino voter support for Democrats for the long haul.”