Feb. 12, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Democrats Face DREAM Dilemma

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo
“Anything that moves us along we’d love to see, but it should be real,” Becerra said of the Republican version of the DREAM Act.

House Democrats face a dilemma: Should they vote against a new, Republican version of the DREAM Act?

Top Democrats worry that an effort by Republican leaders to move a new version of the DREAM Act will undercut their push for a comprehensive immigration overhaul. And without Democratic votes, the Republican bill would likely fail. But the risk for Democrats is if they block a partial win on immigration — even as a bid to get to a conference with the Senate — the overhaul efforts could fall apart altogether.

In the words of Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, a key player in immigration discussions on Capitol Hill, blocking the bill would be a “dangerous game.”

“I’m no Mother Teresa. I play politics, just like everyone else, but on this issue, my God,” the Florida Republican said last week.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Judiciary Chairman Robert W. Goodlatte are quietly drafting the KIDS Act, which would provide legal status for the children of illegal immigrants — the “DREAMers.”

It may have a different name, but the two Virginia Republicans have signaled that their measure will include elements of the 2010 DREAM Act, which House Democrats put on the floor in the waning days of their majority and which only eight Republicans supported.

If it does look similar to that iteration, how could Democrats not endorse it?

So far, Democrats have promised not to compromise on any immigration overhaul until they get their bottom line — a pathway to citizenship for the nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants.

But with something like the KIDS Act, the scheme could backfire.

“Washington Democrats would look deeply hypocritical,” one House Republican leadership aide said.

Democrats could also be criticized by the GOP for blocking what could end up being the only opportunity in the 113th Congress to address, in any form, the question of legal status for undocumented immigrants. Many House Republicans still resist legislation to provide a path to legal status or citizenship for all, but many have begun to at least warm to helping the “DREAMers.”

For Congressional Progressive Caucus Co-Chairman Raúl M. Grijalva, D-Ariz., it seems that the gambit of putting Democrats in a difficult spot has been the Republican plan all along.

“This piecemeal approach is only going to debilitate the Democrats in the long term,” Grijalva said. “We’re going to have to fight battles on the bad ones and we’re going to have to deal with the contradictions of voting against something we already passed and supported.

“[Republicans] could say, ‘Look, we tried to do something, and they didn’t want to do it,’” he predicted.

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