The big difference between the Republican proposal and the original DREAM Act? The GOP bill would grant legal residency to undocumented young people only through military service. It completely eliminates the option of gaining residency by going to college and earning a degree.
In fact, the Republican take on the DREAM Act is a game of mirrors, pure politics at the expense of the disfranchised. Most importantly, the GOP version is fundamentally unnecessary because citizenship for immigrants serving in the armed forces is already law in the United States.
How did this all happen? Well, in the first Florida debate, Newt Gingrich said he’d support a military-option version. Romney, who’d just answered a question about the DREAM Act but never mentioned the military option, suddenly jumped up and agreed with Gingrich. Never mind the hypocritical spectacle of these two adverse-to-military-service-when-it-comes-to-their-own-skin leaders (both Gingrich and Romney got deferments) insisting that young people, here in the U.S. by no choice of their own, volunteer to be cannon fodder as proof of commitment.
Consider now the message that is being sent to young Latinos and other immigrants who’ve lived here all their lives (that’s the population at whom the DREAM Act is aimed): if you put your life at risk again to get into this country, and you survive again, we’ll let you come home to the only country you’ve ever known and welcome you with yellow ribbons and residency.
Within days of the Florida debate, Congressman David Rivera, the greatest electoral embarrassment the Cuban-American community has ever produced (just look under “controversies” in his Wikipedia bio, which lists domestic battery, lies about employment, and weird car accidents), proposed the military-option only ARMS Act.
“If somebody is willing to die for America, then certainly they deserve a chance at life in America,” he told the Miami Herald. Rivera, by the way, supported Gingrich in the Florida primary.
Illinois Congressman Luis Gutierrez, who’s become a warrior for immigration over the years, responded immediately.
“Risking one’s life should not be the only route to receive legal status — status that after all, merely recognizes what is already the reality: that these are American children in all but the paperwork,” he said. “The goal of any immigrant legalization should be to get as many people into the system and on the books as possible and to combine legalization, deportation, enforcement, and a modern legal immigration system to reduce the population of those living in the U.S. illegally and prevent the growth of that population moving forward. The GOP proposal does not do that.”
Moreover, what’s in Republican bill is already covered by the Immigration and Naturalization Act. Under Section 328 of the INA, “All immigrants who have served honorably on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces or as a member of the Selected Ready Reserve on or after September 11, 2001 are eligible to file for immediate citizenship.” Section 329 of the INA provides the possibility of naturalization under certain conditions “whether or not he has been lawfully admitted to the United States for permanent residence.”
So why an ARMS Act? Because the GOP needs something, anything, to talk about in Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Texas, Kansas and every other state where Latinos and immigrants could conceivably have an impact in the election.
Bottom line: Gingrich, Romney, Rivera and anybody else who gets on this train knows it’s going nowhere. It’s all an act, indeed.