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GOP Alternative to DREAM Act Sets Up Intraparty Clash

The Federation for American Immigration Reform blasted the STARS Act as "only the first in a series of amnesties for illegal aliens."

"Just like previous versions of the DREAM Act, the STARS Act is part of the relentless effort to gain amnesty for the entire illegal alien population," FAIR said in a release. "Amnesty advocates understand that broad legalization schemes are unpopular with the American public and that their goals will have to be achieved incrementally."

But the push for a DREAM Act alternative by some Republicans won't end with Rivera's bill.

Another supporter of Pelaez has been Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).

Rubio has long said that he is crafting his own version of the DREAM Act. He said yesterday on Fox that he doesn't know the details of Rivera's bill, but "we take a very different approach."

Rubio said his plan, which should be introduced by the end of the summer, will not have a path to citizenship for illegal-immigrant students.

“It’s not like they’ll never have access to a green card, and ultimately citizenship, but they’ll have to do it like everybody else, though the existing process,” Rubio said. “We wouldn’t create a special path for them.”

Pelaez in April charged that Rubio's approach "would create a whole alternative inferior type of class of Americans."

Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales said on CNN Wednesday that Mitt Romney would be wise to look at the Rubio plan, as Romney indicated he would do in addition to vetoing any Democratic version of the DREAM Act.

"I am heartened by the fact that he now understands that perhaps it does make sense," Gonzales said. "And I think it will be important for the Hispanic community if he supports some kind of legislation that puts these children, innocent children in some kind of legal status."

The significance of moving forward with some kind of reform -- especially when President Obama has fallen short on his DREAM Act promises -- isn't lost on many Republicans in this election cycle. Romney has largely left immigration out of the conversation as he puts his campaign focus on broader economic issues, though the Dems' campaign machine is zeroing in on immigration-related statements made by Romney during debates.

A recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll showed Romney earning 27 percent of Latino voters' support (George W. Bush won 41 percent in 2004) as opposed to 61 percent siding with Obama. A March Fox News Latino poll found 90 percent of likely Hispanic voters supporting the DREAM Act and 85 percent in favor of a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants.

Rivera's bill is acknowledged to not necessarily be something that wins consensus, but coupled with Rubio's bill could be a starting point for the GOP to take the lead on immigration reform in the 112th Congress. Republican supporters of the DREAM Act also might have a new rallying point in Rivera's leaner version.

"Congress needs to pass the DREAM Act so that many young people can form part of our armed forces or attend college and contribute to our generous and great nation," Ros-Lehtinen said in March when championing Pelaez's case. "There are many such desperate cases in our community and, instead of causing such anxiety we can allow these teenagers to realize their dreams in a legal manner."

But they're sure to face plenty of headwinds from the strictest and most steadfast opponents of illegal immigration within their own party.