POLITICS
06/05/2012 06:15 pm ET

Dream Act-Style Bill 'Unfair And Unreasonable,' Key Democrat Says

WASHINGTON -- Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), the upper chamber's main proponent of the Dream Act, told HuffPost on Tuesday that he's glad Republicans including Rep. David Rivera (Fla.) are "stepping up" proposing legislation to help undocumented young people gain legal U.S. residency.

But a bill that restricts eligibility to those under the age of 19, like Rivera's new Stars Bill, won't get Durbin's vote as it is.

"No, of course not," Durbin said, when asked whether he would support such a bill. "But, you know, the fact that they're talking about passing anything is at least an opening to a dialogue."

He said the age cap is "unfair and unreasonable." Eligibility for these types of bills has been a consideration for Durbin since 2001, when he first introduced the Dream Act, which would allow some undocumented young people to gain legal status if they entered the U.S. as children. At the time, it had bipartisan support -- Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) was also an original sponsor -- but no iteration has passed both chambers.

Some of the original "Dreamers," as proponents of the law call would-be Dream Act beneficiaries, are now in their early-30s and have advocated for the bill for years. (The 2001 bill would have required undocumented immigrants to apply for status before they turned 21.) Durbin attempted to address the age issue by extending the age of eligibility to 29 years old in the 2010 version of the Dream Act, which would allow many of those early Dreamers to benefit.

That bill, though, couldn't pass the Senate in 2010, even though it passed in the House. And now, even the Republican-proposed bill from the House may be too soft for the Senate GOP.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who is leading a push for a Republican Dream Act-style bill in the Senate, said he appreciates Rivera's attention to the issue, but thinks his own bill is more viable.

"I respect what he's trying to do," Rubio told reporters on Tuesday. "But I think people are going to prefer our approach."

One of the main issues with Rivera's bill, for Republicans, would be its provisions on citizenship for those eligible. The legislation would allow beneficiaries to apply for citizenship after a certain period, similar to the Democrats' Dream Act. Rubio has said his legislation will not create any special pathway to citizenship for the young people it benefited, instead leaving them to the normal, often difficult, naturalization process that could keep them in immigration lingo for years.

"The path ours provides is the same that exists for anybody else," Rubio said. "I think that allays a lot of the concerns that people have about whether this is amnesty or whether this is creating an incentive for future violation of the law."

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