While the Democratic party points fingers at Republicans for the DREAM Act failing to pass in Congress, the GOP is presenting alternatives to DREAM that some call better than nothing and others call a path to a permanent underclass. No, I’m not talking about Florida Senator Marco Rubio’s version of the DREAM Act, which he has talked much about while creating false hype about him as a possible running mate for GOP presidential hopeful Mitt Romney. That proposal has proven to be like Democratic promises for immigration reform – all talk and no action. I’m talking about what another Florida Republican, Congressman David Rivera, actually introduced last week.
Rivera introduced a bill focusing on education as a follow up to the Adjusted Residency Status (ARMS) Act which was introduced in January of this year. The ARMS Act would provide a path to permanent residency to undocumented youth who serve in the military after a conditional status period. The newly introduced Studying Towards Adjusted Residency Status (STARS) Act, would provide a path to permanent residency to graduates of a four-year college or university after a conditional status period like ARMS. In many ways STARS answers critics of ARMS who wanted an alternative to boosting military enrollment as a path to legalization. STARS and ARMS also run counter to what Sen. Rubio’s alleged plan contains or rather doesn’t. Rubio’s plan allegedly does not/will not contain a path to residency.
One of the criticisms of the STARS Act is that it leaves out a huge number of students by only offering a path to residency for those students who graduate from a four year college. Those who are in a community college or trade school would continue in limbo and at risk for deportation. This distinction can be seen as a way to make the DREAMers even more dreamy if you will, that is represent an “elite” group of well-educated students while not taking into account the inequities that exist in education at the elementary and high school level for in immigrant communities.
Another key difference between ARMS/STARS and the original DREAM is the date of entry. ARMS/STARS applicants have to have entered the US before age 16, while the eligible entry age under the original DREAM act was before age 15. Both ARMS and STARS would leave out larger numbers of DREAMers who have been fighting for over 10 years. ARMS would apply to those under the age of 27-35 depending on what branch of the military the applicant is in. STARS applicants must be below 19 years of age. Under the DREAM Act, those 32 years old of younger at the time of the Act’s enactment would have been eligible.
While Juan Escalante, a 23 year old graduate of Florida State University and member of DREAMActivist.org would only benefit from the ARMS Act since he is over the age limit set forth by the STARS Act, he says there are more pro’s than con’s to these bills. While many paint DREAMer support of DREAM like bills as naive, Escalante is under no illusions. He’s well aware that this is GOP opportunism but adds:
The STARS and ARMS Acts may have a long way to go in order to become reality, but the bottom line is that we, as advocate have the duty and responsibility to ensure that they are credited as passable and realistic measures of relief for our community, which is in need of some victories now. Yes, these pieces of legislation cater to a very small, specific group. but who are we to deny people relief should it be offered to them.
As to the politics behind the bill Escalante says:
Think of how the GOP has to sell the idea to the Democrats – “I know we voted this down, and that this was your idea at one point… but we changed our minds, so hear us out”. I think its an interesting way for Republicans to get attention, by invoking a thorny issue that prompts strong sentiments from all interested parties.
Resources : Fact Sheet on STARS from Congressman Rivera (PDF)
Comparing ARMS, STARS & DREAM from Congressman Rivera (PDF)