By Russell Berman - 04/26/12 05:57 PM EDT
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) sounded a pessimistic note on the prospects of Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R-Fla.) modified DREAM Act proposal making it into law this year.
The Speaker said Rubio, a rising GOP star, had briefed him on the details of his plan, but when he was asked about it on Thursday, Boehner gave no endorsement.
“I found it of interest,” he said of Rubio’s proposal, “but the problem with this issue is that we’re operating in a very hostile political environment. And to deal with a very difficult issue like this … I think it would be difficult at best.”
Democrats have long pushed a bill known as the DREAM Act that would create a pathway to citizenship for certain students who were brought into the U.S. illegally as children. Rubio’s alternative would give those students legal status through non-immigrant visas, but not citizenship.
With Republicans looking to win back support from Hispanic voters and Rubio seen as a contender for the vice presidency, the issue could loom large come this fall. Boehner sought to shift the spotlight to President Obama, saying that despite numerous speeches over the last three years, he had not advanced his own immigration reform plan.
“Where’s the president’s immigration plan? Where does the president stand on this issue?” Boehner asked. “Instead of campaigning all the time, maybe he ought to come back to Washington and go to work.”
Responding to Boehner’s comments, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) issued a statement saying the message was an indication of how far out of the mainstream the GOP remained on immigration reform.
“Speaker Boehner’s comments show how far Senator Rubio has to go in trying to gain Republican support for any proposal to help immigrant students,” Schumer said. “Senator Rubio should be commended for trying to advance the conversation, but he is likely to find his party unwilling to abandon its hardline, anti-immigrant stance.”
— This story was updated at 3:48 p.m.