Rubio’s Dreamless DREAM Act

Originally posted on The Hill

The dictionary defines a dream as a succession of images, thoughts, or emotions passing through the mind during sleep and as an involuntary vision occurring to a person when awake. I wonder what was going on in Senator Marco Rubio’s (R-FL) head when he conjured up his so-called “DREAM Act”.  Either he was plagued by a nightmare, or he was having a particularly bad day.

Unlike the real DREAM Act, which offers deserving undocumented youth a chance to earn an eventual shot at U.S. citizenship, Rubio’s proposal — the details of which have not yet been released — would consign them to a permanent underclass, allowed to physically remain in the U.S., but never to belong to the American family. As the French and German guest worker experience demonstrates, this is a recipe for social disaster.

Yet Rubio claims it’s necessary to prevent “chain migration” — an ugly term concocted by anti-immigrant extremists as code for “latino invasion”. Rubio has apparently bought the nativists argument that if they earn U.S. citizenship, DREAM Act beneficiaries will go on to sponsor their relatives from abroad, leading to more immigration. Not only is this notion legally baseless — the immigration law does not permit sponsorship of grandparents, cousins, or distant relatives—it makes no sense as a matter of policy.

While U.S. citizens aged 21 and older may sponsor their undocumented parents, their parents cannot adjust to lawful permanent resident status while in the U.S. The law requires them to depart the U.S. to apply at a U.S. consulate abroad. Yet when they depart they are barred by statute from returning for up to 10 years — kind of a legal “catch 22” which renders Rubio’s claim baseless.

So why the dreamless DREAM Act?

During his 2010 Florida Senate campaign Rubio sold himself as the son of Cuban refugees — he was careful to point out his parents were “exiles”, not “immigrants”. Flight from the harsh repression of Fidel Castro’s Cuba offered Rubio a family narrative that resonated well with Florida’s politically formidable Cuban exile community. It also allowed Rubio to campaign without the need to reach out to Americans whose families have been torn apart by an outdated and unforgiving immigration law.

But it turns out Rubio’s story was false. In fact, so the Washington Post reported last fall, Rubio’s parents did not flee Fidel Castro’s Cuba, they immigrated to the U.S. during the rule of U.S. supported Fulgencio Batista, two years before Castro even came to power.

So why the deception? Would Rubio have been any less attractive a candidate if he had stood tall as the proud son of immigrants who, like millions before them, had the imagination, courage, determination, and wherewithal to get to America to build a better life for their family?

Rubio likely figured that if the public were aware he was the son of immigrants, not refugees, he would have a harder time explaining his anti-immigrant politics, including his staunch opposition to the real DREAM Act. Rubio probably also calculated that the truth about his parents’ immigration history wouldn’t sell nearly as well to the anti-immigrant fringe with which he has squarely aligned himself since entering the U.S. Senate.

Now Rubio has his ambitious eyes on Mitt Romney and GOP ticket. Romney, who emerges from the primaries having alienated Latino voters with his anti-immigrant rhetoric and ties to nativist extremists, will need to pivot back from the dark corners of the anti-immigrant fringe yet not offend the right wing Republican base. A delicate political dance to be sure.

Enter Tea Party darling Marco Rubio and his dreamless DREAM Act. And just as he jerry-rigged his family history to pander to the voters during his U.S. Senate race, Rubio now attempts to cut the heart out of the DREAM Act to serve his political interests and that of the GOP. Hopefully the voters will see through his latest self-serving charade before Rubio and his ilk turn the DREAM Act into a nightmare.

About David Leopold
Past President American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), In-the-Trenches practicing immigration Attorney, Blogger, Activist, Photographer, Educator, World Traveler. All opinions are my own.

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