The Republican answer to the DREAM Act was introduced Tuesday by Senators Kyl and Hutchison, and it’s called the ACHIEVE Act. (Why do they insist on making up these names?) It has basically the same outlines as the rumored Rubio alternative (interestingly, Rubio is not on this new bill). I assume they took it on because they’re both retiring, meaning they’re free of political constraints, but it falls short of what’s needed.
The bill makes a move in the right direction by lowering the age of initial entry from before the 16th birthday (in the original bill) and the 15th (in Rubio’s draft plan) to prior to the 14th birthday. But that still goes beyond the only real rationale for such an amnesty — to legalize young people whose identity was formed here because they came so young. That doesn’t include teenagers.
The bill also continues with the idea, originally suggested by Sen. Hutchison a few years ago, of giving the DREAMers renewable work visas but not green cards (and therefore no path to citizenship and no downstream legal immigration effects). As I’ve written before, this is a mistake — Congress will likely end up giving them green cards eventually anyway (it will become the Democrats’ next anti-GOP rallying cry), undermining whatever purpose was served by not giving them green cards in the first place. If you’re going to amnesty people, just rip off the band-aid and get it over with — skip the rigmarole about a W-1 visa and W-2 visa and W-3 visa and the rest.
Perhaps most seriously, the bill makes no provisions to limit the need for another DREAM Act a few years down the road. It starts with this description (my emphasis):
To amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to provide secure borders and to give long-term resident youth the ability to contribute to the safety and economic growth of the United States and for other purposes.
But there’s nothing in the bill “to provide for secure borders”. The obvious enforcement module to insert, as it were, would be the Legal Workforce Act, which has already been approved by the House Judiciary Committee and would, among other things, make E-Verify use universal for all new hires. An amnesty bill, even a targeted one like a version of DREAM, is simply incomplete without an enforcement component.
The ACHIEVE Act is obviously not going to go anywhere in Harry Reid’s Senate, but it does represent the first fully articulated Republican alternative to DREAM. Unfortunately, it hands Democrats yet another opportunity to demagogue the issue: “Vote for us because Republicans want to make you second-class citizens!” And it establishes the precedent of a straight amnesty without any offsetting enforcement elements.
All in all, a disappointment.