Rising political superstar Marco Rubio courted three high profile Hispanic Democratic lawmakers last month in an attempt to gain support for his alternative DREAM Act proposal, legislation which his spokesman told The Daily Caller would include a path to permanent residency and citizenship for some illegal immigrants.
Rubio met in late April with Illinois Rep. Luis Gutierrez, Texas Rep. Charles Gonzalez and New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez, all Democrats.
The meeting was described as a private gathering to discuss what their immigration policy aims had in common. The result, according to sources who spoke to The Daily Caller, was support from Gutierrez, opposition from Menendez, and a wait-and-see attitude from Gonzalez.
Speaking to a group of supporters in Chicago on April 6, Gutierrez offered his conditional support for Rubio’s yet-to-be-unveiled DREAM Act approach.
“I will support it because it will stop deportations, and if it stops deportations I will support it. It lets ‘DREAMers’ get a work permit — lets them get a driver’s license. They get a non-immigrant visa. There’s no road to citizenship. It’s temporary. It has to be renewed. It’s nothing permanent.”
Gutierrez also took a swipe at President Obama for failing to act on his own, with or without Congress, to change the status of illegal immigrants brought into the United States by their parents.
“There is nothing in Rubio’s proposal,” he said, “that the President of the United States could not administratively do today.”
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Rubio press secretary Alex Conant insisted that the Florida senator has not settled on the precise language he will promote, but did confirm that it will include a future option of applying for permanent residency and then citizenship.
“We haven’t finalized the plan yet,” Conant told TheDC. “The concept is to give qualifying young people a non-immigrant visa so they can join the military or go to school.”
“At some point down in the future, they could apply for permanent residency and citizenship just like any other immigrant, but there would be no special pathway for them.”
On Thursday Rubio was in Washington, D.C., pitching his thoughts as a trial balloon to a group of Iowa business leaders assembled by Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley. The Miami Herald reported that he argued young people who come to the U.S. involuntarily — even if illegally — should be treated as humanitarian cases similar to those of Cuban refugees.
“This is not really immigration reform,” he said. “This is not a system that is going to exist in the future. This is for a very specific case of people who have come here, through no fault of their own.”
While Rubio seemed to impress Gutierrez, others weren’t as impressed. Tricia Enright, press secretary for Sen. Menendez, told TheDC her boss will only support Democrats’ version of the DREAM Act, a proposal that permits its beneficiaries to sponsor other illegal immigrants for citizenship.
Rep. Gonzalez, through the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, called the April meeting with Rubio “positive” but reserved support because Rubio has yet to release his legislative proposal.
“I invited him to speak with the CHC [Congressional Hispanic Caucus] and start a conversation so that we could better understand his position,” Gonzalez said. “Until we know the details of his proposal, the CHC will not comment on specific provisions.”
Gutierrez press secretary Douglas Rivlin told TheDC that he doesn’t believe any immigration reform package will pass soon. But he added that Rep. Gutierrez considered the April meeting with Rubio to be the beginning of a longer dialogue with the rising GOP star.
“Congressman Gutierrez wants to reward good behavior,” Rivlin said, “and keep the dialogue with Sen. Rubio open to see if progress can be made.”