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Eli Kantor is a labor, employment and immigration law attorney. He has been practicing labor, employment and immigration law for more than 36 years. He has been featured in articles about labor, employment and immigration law in the L.A. Times, Business Week.com and Daily Variety. He is a regular columnist for the Daily Journal. Telephone (310)274-8216; eli@elikantorlaw.com. For more information, visit beverlyhillsimmigrationlaw.com and and beverlyhillsemploymentlaw.com

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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Freshman Looks to Write a More Conservative-Friendly DREAM Act

CQ (by David Harrison): A freshman House Republican from Florida is striking out on his own in an attempt to bridge the partisan divide on immigration.

David Rivera, whose Miami-area district contains more Hispanic residents than any other in Florida, will introduce this week a variation on the Democrats' DREAM Act that would grant legal status to some young people brought to the United States illegally as children.

Immigration advocates are pressing lawmakers in both parties to do something to allow young people who consider the United States their home to stay in the country legally. But election year politics makes it unlikely the current Congress will send any significant immigration overhaul to President Obama's desk.

Rivera said he was inspired to offer his approach by the example of Daniela Pelaez, a Miami high school valedictorian threatened with deportation who visited Florida lawmakers in Washington. His proposal, although more restrictive than the Democratic bill, is an indication that some Republicans in districts with significant Hispanic populations are trying to thread the needle by appealing both to voters eager for looser immigration laws and to a House Republican majority now more firmly opposed than ever to any form of "amnesty."

Rivera's Florida colleagues Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario Diaz-Balart are among the few House Republicans who still openly support the DREAM Act (S 952, HR 1842), a measure that had bipartisan backing in 2010 when it could not overcome a Senate filibuster. Rivera has been vague about his position on the DREAM Act.

Rivera's bill would provide an opening for people who are no more than 18 and a half years old and came to this country before they turned 16. If they had no criminal record and were enrolled in a four-year college, they would be spared deportation. They could gain legal resident status if they graduated and held a job.

The DREAM Act would offer a path to citizenship to illegal residents up to age 35 who join the military or enroll in a college or university, including community college.

Rivera said his proposal could win the support of Republicans who object to some provisions of the Democratic bill, such as the higher age cutoff.

Although he has not yet approached House leaders about moving his bill, Rivera has discussed it with some GOP colleagues, including Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith of Texas, who has long backed tougher enforcement of immigration laws. Smith declined to comment, but Rivera said he thinks the chairman is open to helping a narrowly defined segment of the illegal resident population.

No indication exists that Rivera's approach tempts Democrats. "Rep. David Rivera, like a lot of Republicans, knows that their side of the debate on immigration has gone off the rails and they have followed the hardliners over an electoral cliff," Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez, D-Ill., said in a statement.

Gutierrez said the bill is an attempt to find a place for Republicans such as presidential candidate Mitt Romney and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida "that is to the right of Obama, but to the left of the hardcore policies many Republicans embrace."

Rivera has also introduced a bill that would grant legal status to young undocumented immigrants who join the military. That concept is supported by Republican presidential aspirants Romney and Newt Gingrich, although it has only one co-sponsor, California Democrat Bob Filner.

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