Breaking down the newly-proposed 'Achieve Act' - New York News

Breaking down the newly-proposed 'Achieve Act'

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PHOENIX -

Republican lawmakers, including one from here in Arizona, have unveiled a plan that would allow young, undocumented immigrants to work and go to school in this country under certain conditions.

The proposal is called the "Achieve Act." It's supported by Arizona senator Jon Kyl, who's retiring.

"We are introducing this legislation that is not dissimilar from what the president has done de facto, which is a way of righting the situation but doing it in the right way," said Kyl, referring to the president's deportation deferral.

Under the plan, young, undocumented immigrants could apply for three different types of visas. They would not be eligible for federal benefits, and there is no path to citizenship. But they would be able to stay and work here.

It sounds a lot like the Dream Act, and certainly with the Achieve Act, military service and education could pave the way toward permanent residence. But one of the dreamers we spoke with told me that's not enough.

Arizona's undocumented young people, the members of the Dream Act Coalition, who've been pushing for reform for the last few years, felt like they found a friend in President Obama when he deferred deportation for hundreds of thousands in that group.

So what about congressional republicans? Is today's move to roll out an alternative to the Dream Act a step in the right direction?

"I think they have to, it's not a matter of if they want to," says Erika Andiola, one of the dreamers.

She was brought to the U.S. when she was 11. She's still in a kind of legal limbo. She told me this new "Achieve Act" doesn't give her much hope.

"In terms of the timing, I really don't understand why they're doing something now when they could have done something a long time ago."

Senators Kyl and Kay Bailey Hutchinson of Texas told reporters today they have been working on this bill for some time and that, at the very least, it starts the conversation among their congressional colleagues.

"This is not relegating people to some desert island, unable to participate in the civic affairs of our nation at all, and it's certainly not intended to be quite the opposite," says Republican Senator Jon Kyl.

In order to apply for one of the three visas offered, dreamers:

• Must have lived in the U.S. 5 years

• Must have arrived no later than age 14

• Can't have a criminal record

• Must be an English speaker no older than 28

• Won't have access to federal benefits.

"There's just no reason for them to go against something that the majority of Americans really support, which is the Dream Act," says Andiola.

You also have to pay a fee and work your way from one visa to the next in order to stay in this country. As far as a path to citizenship, this is not it.

You can work here, get an education and eventually get permanent status, but Senator Kyl said anything short of marrying a citizen will require you to get in the back of the line, so to speak, for citizenship that might come someday.

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