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Border BFFs: Obama, Peña Nieto Bond as Agendas Remain Suspect

And two Republicans used the occasion to introduce their DREAM Act alternative: the ACHIEVE Act.

by
Bridget Johnson

Bio

November 27, 2012 - 6:00 pm
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The president-elect told CNN that the biggest problem between U.S. and Mexico right now is the need “to build a greater trust in our relationship.”

“My purpose, then, is to create a relationship, to build a relationship based on trust, a relationship that would be positive, constructive, that would allow us to understand the world affairs and the world matters that both peoples have to face,” Peña Nieto said. “And based on this agreement, we’ll reach a relationship of brotherhood.”

Peña Nieto also met with lawmakers including Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).

“I found my discussion with President-elect Nieto very encouraging. I believe he is strongly committed to strengthening the relationship between our two countries and specifically with Texas and the other U.S. states bordering his country,” Hutchison said. “I take it as a good sign that President-elect Nieto has signaled that one of his top priorities is to strengthen the economic, social and cultural bonds shared by our two nations.”

It was no accident that Hutchison and another retiring border senator, Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), took the opportunity today to introduce a bill “to get the ball rolling” on a legislative DREAM Act alternative.

The ACHIEVE Act, under development for more than a year, would put in place a special visa system for young people brought to this country illegally before age 14 (and who are under 28 years old) who intend to pursue a technical or college degree, or serve in the U.S. military.

The first step, a W1 visa, would be granted to students for six years or military members for four years. After attaining a degree or completing service, a W2 visa allowing four years of legal work status would be granted. Then a W3 non-work visa would be eligible for renewal every four years if applicants have followed all the terms of the program.

McCain and Rubio were also instrumental in drafting the proposal.

“This doesn’t change the law as it is today in that if they decide they want a green card or they want to get into the citizenship track, they could do that. Under today’s law there is no change in the requirements,” Hutchison said at a press conference with Kyl this morning. “They will not get in front of the line. They will get in the back of the line. They’re not kept from getting that citizenship track nor are they given a preference in that citizenship track.”

“We’re going to have to count on people like Senator McCain and Senator Rubio and others who have an interest in this issue next year because neither of us are going to be here. And I confess to you, that’s another reason we decided to go ahead and file this legislation now,” Kyl said, acknowledging it wouldn’t likely come up in the lame-duck session. “…We have to have a discussion that is sensible, that is calm, that discusses all of the different aspects of the issue.”

He accused Obama of “violating” his oath of office by issuing the directive earlier this year to waive immigration enforcement on DREAM Act eligible students.

“Those of us who strongly believe in the rule of law believe that in our country if you don’t like the law, change it or seek to change it. Don’t violate it,” Kyl said. “For a civilian, that’s called civil disobedience. For the president, it’s called violating your oath of office and we don’t think it’s a good idea for the president to be put in the position where he says, ‘The only way that I can help these people is to not enforce law that Congress passed and one of my predecessors signed.’”

Kyl mentioned Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), who won election to Kyl’s seat, as another potential Republican who could pick up the torch in the 113th Congress.

“One of the things that we tried to avoid was pure, raw political power, ramming something down somebody’s throat,” Kyl said of the bill. “That doesn’t work when you’re trying to get compromise.”

Over in the House, a Flake-sponsored bill directing the Department of Homeland Security to create for congressional approval a strategy for gaining operational control of the northern and southern U.S. borders passed.

“It’s going to be impossible for Congress to tackle immigration reform without achieving operational control of our southern border, and the federal government can’t achieve operational control if they aren’t even using it as a metric,” said Flake.

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Bridget Johnson is a veteran journalist whose news articles and opinion columns have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe. Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor at The Hill, where she wrote The World from The Hill column on foreign policy. Previously she was an opinion writer and editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. She is an NPR contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, Politico and more, and has myriad television and radio credits as a commentator. Bridget is Washington Editor for PJ Media.
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