Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin is calling on supporters of the DREAM Act to encourage Republicans to take up the cause.
The move is part of a strategy to appeal to the hearts of the opposition and put a face to the issue of illegal immigration, the Illinois Democrat said after giving a speech at the Center for American Progress on the bill Tuesday.
“It gives our critics a challenge: Take a look at these young people and explain why you wouldn’t give them this chance,” Durbin said after returning to the Capitol. “I think it is working.”
Although the legislation to provide a path to citizenship for the children of some undocumented immigrants is unlikely to see the light of day in this Congress, Durbin’s comments are a sign that Democrats continue to see the issue as a political winner, particularly in an election year.
“It is a political issue because there are more and more minority voters and many of them have children and relatives who are affected by this,” Durbin said. “From that perspective, some Republicans have told me privately that they think the Republican position on immigration is deadly for their future.”
His comments also come as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Monday met in his office with a high-profile DREAM Act-eligible student from Nevada and had a videoconference with other Nevada DREAM students.
Republicans have been supporting alternative legislation that was being crafted by Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.) along with Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (Ariz.) and Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (Texas).
The DREAM Act “creates citizenship and permits a person who was here illegally to immediately turn around and petition for the people who brought them here illegally to become U.S. citizens. That’s not right,” Kyl said, adding, “that’s just one” of several issues he has with the measure.
Democrats have been critical of the Rubio effort because he has not produced any legislation. But given a new policy announced by the White House last month, it’s unclear whether proponents plan to push for its passage. Kyl said he was unsure whether the bill would be unveiled this year.
The White House announced the new policy last month, which would allow people who were brought to the United States as children younger than 16, who do not present a risk to national security or public safety and who meet several key criteria to “be considered for relief from removal from the country or from entering into removal proceedings.”
“They grew up in America and have overcome the odds to achieve success. We’ve already invested in them by educating them in our schools. And they have great potential to contribute to our country,” Durbin said in his speech.
On Aug. 15, the administration will begin accepting applications for deferred action, and Durbin is urging eligible people to apply and to tell their story.
Terri Henderson, 6, center, whose mother is El Salvador, attends a rally with members of Congress at Union Station's Columbus Circle to announce the Restore Opportunity, Strengthen, and Improve the Economy (ROSIE) Act on July 29, 2014. The legislation provides incentives for government contractors to pay a living wage and other benefits that would help low-income workers.