Let's face it: Miracles don't happen in Congress, especially on immigration. Fortunately, good policy occasionally makes for good politics.

Republicans can take the upper hand in the recent mud fight over funding the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) by passing legislation to allow Dreamers — immigrants brought to the country as children — to remain in this country and earn citizenship.

Including just this legislation in a "clean" DHS funding bill, Republicans could supersede the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program that currently provides deportation protection and work authorization to Dreamers.


Here is a practicable recommendation for the GOP: beneficiaries must have entered the U.S. before the age of 18; have resided in the country for five years; serve in the military, pursue higher education or accrue volunteer service; and have no violent felony convictions.

Once the beneficiary meets the requirement, he or she would obtain legal permanent residency and go through the existing channels to obtain citizenship. Those serving in the military would immediately naturalize upon enlistment.

As soon as the beneficiary's application is accepted, he or she would relinquish DACA; the DACA program would be rolled back as Dreamers qualify for the Republican legislation.

Democrats will be forced to accept legislation that replaces a key component of the president's immigration actions while allowing the GOP to minimize some of the political damage done by Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa).

While former Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) have both had some legislation they started, they both ultimately abandoned their DREAM Act-like bills: Rubio because he was preempted by DACA, Cantor because, despite years of talk, he didn't get it out before losing his primary.

Since then, the GOP has uniformly decried the DACA program as a presidential overreach (which it isn't), yet have offered nothing to take its place.

With GOP heavyweights like former Govs. Jeb Bush (Fla.) and Mike Huckabee (Ark.) supporting citizenship for Dreamers as they attempt to court Latino voters for a general election, we are left to wonder if they will be able to move their party in a more conciliatory direction.

Whatever the GOP plan is on immigration, 2016 is rapidly approaching. For Democrats, they just offered protection from deportation, and those 5 million people whose American family members will no longer have to fear separation represent a lot of votes.

What does the GOP have to offer, other than bills trying to undo this? Nevertheless, if the GOP once again fails to act on immigration reform, the president must lead and protect the remaining 7 million left behind.

Common sense rarely prevails in Congress, unfortunately. Let us hope, for the country's sake, that the GOP can see that good policy makes good politics.

This piece has been corrected to note, in the policy recommendations for the GOP, the maximum age of Dreamers upon arrival.

Vargas is co-director of the Dream Action Coalition and a national advocate for immigration reform.