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GOP’s Achieve Act Tries to Supplant Dream Act

The re-election of President Barack Obama last month will have far-reaching implications for American society. The 44 percentage point advantage that Obama and many Democrats enjoyed in the election has shined a national spotlight on this increasingly important voting bloc.

As an immigration attorney in Texas, I am decidedly grateful that Latino communities are becoming more involved in national political discourse. With such a substantial majority of Latino voters coming out in support of the Democrats in the last election, it is not surprising that many prominent Republicans are re-examining their positions on immigration reform.

The traditional GOP platform on immigration reform has been to disallow illegal immigrants from obtaining visas or citizenship, but this election has convinced many Republican leaders this is the wrong position. U.S. Senators John McCain of Arizona, Jon Kyl of Arizona and Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas have sponsored the Achieve Act which would provide legal permanent residency to young adults who have completed a term of military service or undergraduate study as well as worked for at least four years in the U.S.

The proposed Senate bill would provide a visa to immigrants younger than 28 who entered the country before age 14. As long as these individuals do not have criminal records and agree not to receive government benefits including federally backed student loans, the new visa would allow them to enter the military or complete their college education. Following their graduation or completion of military service, they must apply for a work visa and work for four years before achieving the status of legal resident.

The Achieve Act is not very likely to pass both houses of Congress, but it does indicate that significant members of the Republican Party are willing to embrace some changes in immigration law. The three sponsors of the bill hail from Texas and Arizona, which have large Latino communities, suggest that some political considerations have gone into the formulation of the bill, but this still signals a dramatic change in the position of the GOP. In the past the Republican Party has been adamantly opposed to allowing illegal immigrants from legal status through backdoor channels.

Many immigration lawyer like myself welcome this revolutionary new step by GOP leaders. The Dream Act proposal already has widespread Democratic approval and allows undocumented young people to achieve legal status through the completion of a college degree or a term of service in the military. The proposed Achieve Act would impose higher requirements of employment and not confer legal residency. Although it may appear to many young immigrants that the Achieve Act would set back the proposed immigration reforms offered by the Democrats, from a political point of view, it is actually a significant leap forward for the Republican party.

As an immigration lawyer, I can provide advice to you if you have questions concerning the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals programs or other pending legal matters. Please contact me at (512) 215-5225 to set up a consultation.

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