Wading directly into the thorny immigration debate, a key House Republican on Wednesday introduced the GOP‘s first version of the Dream Act in this Congress in a bill that would give a select group of high-achieving illegal immigrants the chance to become U.S. citizens.
Rep. David Rivera, Florida Republican, said his bill is designed to help students who likely had no say in their family’s decision to come to the U.S. illegally but who have studied hard enough to get into college.
“This legislation can make the American dream a reality for young people like Daniela who through no fault of their own are prevented from realizing their full potential in this land of opportunity,” Mr. Rivera said.
In the past, some Republicans have joined in pushing for passage of the Dream Act—but GOP support cratered after 2010, and Republicans interested in working on the issue instead have vowed to come up with their own versions.
Mr. Rivera‘s bill, which he named the Studying Towards Adjusted Residency Status Act, or Stars Act, would apply to students who were brought to the U.S. before age 16, who received their diplomas, kept out of trouble and were accepted to four-year colleges or universities.
They would be eligible to apply for a five-year visa to stay and study in the U.S. If they graduate from college, they would be able to apply to stay longer and be put on a path to citizenship.
Mr. Rivera’s bill is far more narrow than Democrats’ Dream Act, which would grant legal status to those at least into their late 20s. The Dream Act would set a much lower education standard—often as low as having enrolled in several college-level classes—and also would apply to illegal immigrants who pledge to join the U.S. military.
The issue had become so toxic that Republicans have shied away from it for the past 18 months; but several Hispanic Republicans had vowed to try to come up with a version.
Mr. Rivera was the first to write legislation, and Sen. Marco Rubio, another Florida Republican who is viewed as a rising star in his party, has said he will do the same.