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The STARS And ARMS Acts Need A Full Review

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During a Republican debate in January, Mitt Romney announced that "self-deportation" would be a part of his immigration policy -- a position that has earned him much criticism and continues to haunt him to this day.

It also eclipsed something Newt Gingrich said.

While both candidates oppose any sort of reform to our broken immigration system; and they certainly do not champion passage of the federal DREAM Act, Gingrich threw his support behind a pathway for undocumented youth to obtain legal status should they enlist in the military.

And it wasn't long until somebody tried to make headway on Gingrich's proposal. The day after that debate, a bill matching Gingrich's description was filed in Congress by Congressman David Rivera (R-FL): the Adjusted Residency for Military Service (ARMS) Act.

The rationale? After filing the bill, Congressman Rivera said: "If these young people are willing to die for America, then certainly they deserve a chance at life in America."

This military option garnered few supporters from the pro-immigration reform community. And so far, the ARMS Act has only one co-sponsor in the House of Representatives.

But even Daniela Pelaez -- the undocumented Floridian high school valedictorian whose deportation sparked protest and was eventually granted a reprieve -- has expressed her doubts on the passage of the federal DREAM Act.

After meeting with several representatives from the state of Florida, Pelaez had the opportunity to sit down with her Congressman: David Rivera. And after hearing her story, Rivera announced that he would be introducing the Studying Towards Adjusted Residency Status (STARS) Act.

This bill, which has yet to be filled in Congress, is reported to allow undocumented students who arrived before the age of 18, maintained good moral character, graduated from high school, and are planning to attend an institution of higher education, to adjust their immigration status after a 10 year period in which they must maintain and complete the requirements stated by the bill.

It is a bill Pelaez helped write and called a starting point.

Currently the DREAM Act is stalled in Congress; specifically in the Republican controlled House. And perhaps, proposals like the ARMS and STARS Acts are the appropriate measures to start conversations on both sides of the aisle.

Opposing either of these pieces of legislation is of poor judgment for any pro-migrant organization out there, especially when it comes to declaring opposition to a piece of legislation that we have yet to see the full text of.

If this is an opportunity for the immigrant community to benefit from, why are pro-migrant advocates getting so wound up?

Instead of nitpicking these bills, advocates should utilize them in order to leverage the Republican Party to put forth a sensible and comprehensive proposal that may solve the plight of millions of undocumented students across the country. One that can, perhaps, even borrow elements of the DREAM Act and actually have a decent shot at passing through our convoluted political system.

Congressman Rivera may be an opportunist for filling these bills so quickly, but he has put forth viable solutions for the immigrant community to consider instead of using the DREAM Act to further wedge a gap between political parties.

And for attempting to introduce proposals to draw the support of his party, a base that has consistently remained in opposition to the DREAM Act, he is an individual who should be thanked, not harped on.

Why shut the door or him?

The STARS and ARMS Acts may not see the light of day in Congress, but as time continues to pass for the ten year-old DREAM Act, maybe it is time that we start considering some different approaches as to how to solve the plight of undocumented students.

Let me make it clear that this by no means detracts from my full support for the federal Dream Act. However, as an undocumented immigrant and an advocate, I cannot go against a bill that could potentially offer relief to people who find themselves in the same circumstances I am in.