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GOP at a Loss for Message on DREAM Act

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

“Please provide copies of any documentation, including any and all legal opinions, memoranda, and emails, that discuss any authority you have or do not have to undertake this immigration directive,” the Senators wrote. They asked to receive the documents by July 3.

The Senators note in the letter that Obama a year ago made statements indicating that he did not have the authority to carry out such an initiative.

“Why has your position on the legal authority of the Executive Branch changed,” the lawmakers wrote.

Still, the basic question of how to deal with illegal immigrants continues to bedevil the GOP as it seeks to court Hispanics while remaining a party that calls for the rule of law when it comes to immigration.

The most recent Republican effort on the DREAM Act has been led by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), but he said this week he didn’t see a way forward after Obama’s action.

There may, however, be a move to breathe new life into the Rubio effort, lest the Republicans get painted into an anti-immigrant corner.

Sen. Jon Kyl (Ariz.) said it will be apparent in the next 48 hours if Republicans will put forward their own legislation. And McConnell pointed to a speech expected by Romney in front of Latino leaders on Thursday for guidance.

The 2008 Republican presidential nominee, Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), grew agitated as reporters pressed him Tuesday for what the GOP’s next move should be on the DREAM Act, given that the GOP has filibustered it in the past and Rubio has never made his own modified version public.

“The Republicans have shown, and Mitt Romney has shown, compassion and concern, for children who were brought here,” McCain said. “We need to address the issue and at the same time, the president has taken steps that just a year ago he said he could not take constitutionally.”

McCain said he’d be happy to see Rubio’s plan move forward.

“I would be glad to work on the issue, and most Republicans would be glad to work on the issue,” McCain said. “I have said all along that we need to address the issue.”

McCain said the immigration situation is Obama’s fault, given that he promised to take it up in his first year in office and has yet to propose comprehensive legislation. But the president and the White House have repeatedly and loudly called for Congress to act on DREAM, to no avail. And the Senate GOP led a filibuster of it in 2010’s lame-duck session after it passed the House and garnered 55 votes in the Senate.

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who said earlier this year that there wasn’t much chance of something like the DREAM Act making it through his chamber, also didn’t have an answer on what the GOP should do next, beyond saying that Obama’s making it harder by acting on his own.

“It puts everyone in a difficult position,” Boehner said. “I think we all have a concern for those who are caught in this trap, through no fault of their own are here. But the president’s actions are going to make it much more difficult for us to work in a bipartisan way to get to a permanent solution.”

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