Senate Republicans want to alter DREAM Act legislation to steal away Hispanic voters from Democrats.
Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.), the only Senate Republican of Hispanic heritage and a possible vice presidential pick, is working on an alternative version of the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, which would grant legal status to illegal immigrants who came to the country at a young age and serve in the military or attend college.
He declined to provide any details, but confirmed he hopes to have legislation soon.
“I don’t have any specifics to announce yet,” said Rubio. “This stuff has to be done responsibly. We’re working toward that and hopefully very soon.”
Sens. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) and Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) are also working on a bill, although its details are being kept secret, according to congressional sources. Senate sources expect it to be unveiled after GOP front-runner Mitt Romney has clinched the presidential nomination.
The efforts have unnerved Democratic leaders, who are watching warily—Democrats see their advantage over Republicans among Hispanic voters as one of the party’s greatest strengths in November.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) highlighted the worries when he warned Hispanic business leaders last week to not buy into GOP efforts on immigration and other issues ahead of the election.
At an event on Capitol Hill, Reid cautioned that if Republicans offer a new DREAM Act, it will be a watered-down version of the bill most Republicans opposed when it came up for a vote last year.
“While you’re here in town, don’t take the bait that will be given to you by my Republican friends,” said Reid, who acknowledged that a surge of support from Hispanic voters helped him win reelection in 2010 despite his low approval ratings.
”I’m going to do everything in my power to stop a watered-down version of the DREAM Act,” he said. “That’s what they’re pushing now.”
At a debate earlier this year, Romney and his then-closest rival for the nomination, Newt Gingrich, said they could support a version of the DREAM Act that gave legal residency to illegal immigrants who came to the country at a young age if they served in the military.