I was thrilled this week when Mitt Romney told attendees at a closed-door fundraiser that he supports Florida Sen. Marco Rubio's Republican alternative to the Dream Act. The next step: Romney should endorse the proposal publicly and challenge Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to bring it up for a vote in the Senate.
This would be good for Romney, good for Republicans, good for many hopeful young immigrants and good for America.
Like the original, bipartisan Dream Act, Rubio's alternative is designed to help young people who were brought to this country illegally as children and are now making lives here — this is the only "home" they know — but are unable, because of their immigration status, to attend college legally, serve in the military or work anywhere but in the underground economy.
Unlike the original, which Romney and some Republicans reject as amnesty, Rubio's version — let's call it Dream 2.0 — would not grant these young people automatic citizenship. Instead of green cards, which open the door to citizenship, most would get non-immigrant visas allowing them to remain in the U.S. legally. But neither would the new bill bar them from citizenship. No American with any sense of history wants to create a caste of second-class sub-citizens. Dream 2.0 grants green cards to young people who have served honorably in the military. And it leaves open the possibility that other beneficiaries could eventually become citizens by getting in a different green-card queue — one based on marriage, employment or family ties.
This is a thoughtful compromise, and I can see why it appeals to Romney — it's consistent with the best of Republican values. These young people have committed no crime — their parents brought them to the U.S. involuntarily. Dream 2.0 would encourage assimilation. It would reward individual achievement and service — attending college and enlisting in the military. It would make all the difference for the young people who benefit. And it would be a boon for America — surely it's better for the nation if these promising young people make the most of their potential.
So what's standing in the way? Politics, of course. But not the politics you'd expect. This time around, the problem is more Democrats than Republicans.
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