By: Stephen Dinan
Saying they want to get the conversation on immigration reform started, top Senate Republicans on Tuesday introduced a version of the so-called “Dream Act” to grant young illegal immigrants legal status in the US, though not giving them a special path to citizenship.
“We have got to get this ball rolling,” said Mr. Kyl, an Arizona Republican who is retiring this year. “We have to have a discussion that is sensible, that is calm.”
Their bill would be more limited than the proposals Democrats have sought, which would have been more generous with a path to citizenship and broader in the number of immigrants it would apply to. But Ms. Hutchison, Texas Republican, said she and Mr. Kyl have tried to accommodate some Democratic lawmakers’ concerns.
The legislation would reward students with higher status the further along they are in pursuing their education. Those who earn a four-year college degree or complete military service could apply for a permanent visa that wouldn’t put them on a new path to citizenship, but would allow them to join existing lines by getting married to a U.S. citizen or finding another opportunity to adjust their status.
Mr. Kyl said that, given how prominent marriage is as a way of gaining a path to citizenship, he figures many of those who get legal status would eventually be able to earn green cards, which is the intermediary step before citizenship.
Illegal immigrant youths who were brought to the U.S. by their parents are among the most difficult cases in immigration law. Earlier this year, President Obama announced his administration would stop deporting them and would instead grant them work permits — though they wouldn’t have any new legal status.
They said they don’t intend for those who get the visas to have access to most government programs or welfare.
The senators said they worked on the legislation with Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, and Sen. Marco Rubio, the Florida Republican who the GOP hopes to be a bridge to the expanding Hispanic population.
“I think we’re supportive of their efforts, but we’ll have our legislation in the new year,” Mr. Conant said.