Getting the DREAM Act right

As a response, Marco Rubio is currently crafting legislation to be a Republican version of the DREAM Act. It is hard to predict what this bill will ultimately look like -- so judgment must be suspended for now -- but the pressures on the Republican party’s are easy to understand. On one hand, he must offer enough to the Latino population to at least claim that he is interested in helping Latinos. On the other, he must balance the party, and appeal to the less immigrant-friendly base. Equally significant, Rubio must demonstrate that he can move the House to his position.

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But the pressure is also on the Democratic party. President Obama has deported record numbers of undocumented immigrants. And simply supporting the DREAM Act means nothing if action is not behind the sound bytes.

The temptation is real to produce a bill that offers abundance or only a fraction of what previous DREAM Acts covered just to execute a marketing ploy. Sadly, this conduct has been rampant in today’s political climate. It is no surprise that many are becoming dishearten by the dysfunction in Congress. Latinos expect Democrats and Republicans to be better than this. The spirit of the DREAM Act is grounded in bipartisanship.

It’s hard to judge a law before it’s written, but Latinos have good reason to be suspicious of a Republican party which filibustered the DREAM Act, pushed racial profiling bills like SB 1070 and HB 56 into law, and have supported anti-Latino icons such as Joe Arpaio. Marco Rubio may very well change this calculation and soften the anti-immigrant rhetoric on the right, or he may offer a hollow pander attempt that an increasingly savvy Latino demographic will see through. With an electorate which is still very much up for grabs, both parties are challenged to offer a better deal to the Latino community.

Ultimately, both parties must let their ideology inform, not dictate, decision making. And both parties must be mindful that undocumented youth are not fighting for a party. We are fighting for our communities, our families, and for this country we call home.

Vargas, J.D, is a national activist for the DREAM Act and managing partner of DRM Capitol Group, LLC.