WASHINGTON - A trio of Republican senators has introduced legislation to allow young people brought to the United States by their parents illegally to receive legal residency if they seek higher education or enlist in the military.
The measure, sponsored by retiring Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, and Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., as well as Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., would offer a Republican alternative to the so-called Dream Act, providing a pathway to permanent residency -- but not citizenship -- to young adults who have completed military service or higher education and have worked at least four years. It would not provide any special path to citizenship for such immigrants.
The proposal comes as more Republicans have called for the party to soften its hard-line opposition to illegal immigration after November electoral losses driven, in part, by poor performance with Latino voters.
Hutchison and Kyl insisted that their bill was not a response to the election results. Instead, they said it represented a year of behind-the-scenes work to come up with an alternative to the Dream Act that would allow such young people to remain in the United States without allowing them, as Kyl said, "to jump ahead of anybody in the citizenship path."
They said they were moving ahead with the legislation now so it could get a public airing before they leave the Senate when its term concludes this year. However, they said they were not optimistic about movement on the issue, given the fiscal issues that will occupy most of lawmakers' time.
The measure, dubbed the Achieve Act, would extend a new visa to people younger than 28 who were brought to the United States before age 14. It would be available to those without serious criminal records and who agree not to access government benefits, including federal student loans.