Retiring Republicans Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison and Jon Kyl on Tuesday introduced a bill they argue corrects the problems with the Dream Act, legislation aimed at providing a path to citizenship for young illegal immigrants that never made it out of Congress.
Hutchison and Kyl’s bill, the Achieve Act, differs from the proposed Dream Act by limiting application eligibility to young people who entered the country before the age of 14, instead of 16.
The Achieve Act also does not provide a special pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants.
“I think ours is better than the Dream Act, because it doesn’t allow [illegal immigrants] to cut in line in front of people who have come and abided by the rules of our laws today,” Hutchison said.
“It doesn’t keep them from applying under the rules today, but it doesn’t give them a special preference before those who have waited in line for years to get into the citizenship track,” she added.
If young immigrants are eligible under the bill, which Kyl said was difficult to draft, they would receive a W-1 nonimmigrant visa to earn a degree or serve in the U.S. military.
“There were a whole series of, I would say, sort of technical problems with the way that theirs was drafted. … We had to literally re-write a lot of the technical provisions of [the Dream Act],” Kyl said.
Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, a rising star in the Republican Party who is often mentioned as a possible candidate for president in 2012, was instrumental to the Achieve Act, Kyl said. (RELATED: Rubio breaks fundraising record at Iowa governor’s birthday event)
“Sen. Rubio, one of his great contributions was this concept of these student and then work visas to just basically conform this to pretty much what the law is today,” Kyl said. “You can get a student visa. You can have a work visa, and those give you significant rights being in this country.”
Kyl added that it was wrong for President Barack Obama to “ignore current law” and unilaterally implement a deferred action program in August that mirrors parts of the stalled Dream Act.
“Those of us who strongly believe in rule of law believe that in our country, if you don’t like the law, change it or seek to change it, don’t violate it — and for a civilian, that’s called civil disobedience. For the president, it’s called violating your oath of office, and we don’t think it’s a good idea,” Kyl said.
Not all young immigrants eligible for the president’s deferred action program would be covered by the Republican proposal.