Dreamers are rejecting an alternate version of the DREAM Act, dubbed the Achieve Act, that was introduced Tuesday by Republican senators and would give a legal status to undocumented youth who entered the United States as children. Retiring senators Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) presented the Achieve Act Tuesday, saying it would “provide a basis for compromise on the status of children brought to this country illegally.”
The proposal would put in place a special visa system for undocumented youth who want to pursue a technical or college degree, or serve in the U.S. military. But dreamers are not happy with the bill, and say they won’t support it.
Erika Andiola, a dreamer from Arizona, said she predicts the Achieve Act won’t gain enough support to pass in Congress because it doesn’t provide a pathway to citizenship for undocumented youth.
She calls the Republican proposal a “watered down” version of the DREAM Act, which was first introduced as a bipartisan bill in 2001. That bill enjoyed support from Republicans including Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who co-sponsored it before dropping his support and voting against it in 2010. Now, McCain backs the Achieve Act.
“It doesn’t make sense for Republicans to water down the DREAM Act, especially after we saw in the elections that not only the Latino community but also a large portion of the American people support the DREAM Act and a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants,” Andiola said. She also noted that the Achieve Act lists similar qualifications as the DREAM Act. The major difference, she said, is that unlike the DREAM Act, the Republican legislation does not include a pathway to citizenship and fewer dreamers would benefit from it.
Dulce Matuz, chairwoman of the Arizona DREAM Act Coalition, said she disapproves of the Achieve Act because it “treats dreamers like second-class citizens.”
“It doesn’t fully accept and integrate dreamers into society and it doesn’t provide them a pathway to citizenship,” she said. Matuz said she is concerned that there is “no real effort for bipartisan work” coming from the Republican Party to draft legislation that addresses the issue of immigration as a whole.
However, she said the Achieve Act is a sign that the party is “starting to pander to the Latino electorate.” “There’s nothing wrong with that,” she said. “The problem is that they are doing it the wrong way. They should be consulting and having dialogue with the national networks and congressional leaders who have been working on this for years.”