As November elections neared in 2010, the Democratic supporters of the immigration reform bill known as the Dream Act kicked into high gear, pushing it toward an eventual vote in the House and Senate that December.
The bill proposed conditional legal status for qualifying young people who arrived in the U.S. under age 16, provided they go to college or join the military. It didn't go anywhere in 2010, but as November nears and both major parties fight for Latino votes, expect the Democratic-backed bill to figure prominently again, along with a few stripped-down mutations as Republican lawmakers formulate alternative proposals.
How many "Dream Acts" are there? Here's the original plus a growing list of alternatives:
1) The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act: This is the original proposal last voted on in 2010. Various versions have come and gone since 2001. Originally a bipartisan proposal, its initial Republican backers have since dropped off. The bill failed to clear a Senate vote in December 2010, but a similar version was reintroduced last year by Senate Democrats. The bill would grant conditional legal status and a path to citizenship to undocumented young people who were brought to the U.S. before age 16, so long as they attend college or join the military and meet other criteria. The proposed age cap for applicants is 35.
2) The Studying Toward Adjusted Residency Status (STARS) Act: A GOP alternative drafted with the aid of Daniela Pelaez, a Colombian-born high school valedictorian from Miami who narrowly avoided deportation recently. The proposal was announced last month by by Rep. David Rivera of Florida. From one media synopsis: "It would allow high school graduates accepted into college the chance to stay in the U.S. for up 10 years and beyond. The first five would be to go to college. Upon graduating they get another five years. After the 10 years they are eligible to apply for full citizenship." Unlike the Dream Act, it would apply to younger beneficiaries, undocumented immigrants who are 18 years and 6 months of age or younger and arrived in the U.S. before 16.
3) The Adjusted Residency for Military Service (ARMS) Act: The STARS Act isn't the first stripped-down alt-Dream Act proposed by Rivera, who in January introduced a military-only version as well, after hearing GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich say he'd support the Dream Act if those who benefited were required to serve in the military as a condition for legal status and citizenship. The bill hasn't drawn much lawmaker support so far; even with the original Dream Act, its military component has been seen as a detriment by some supporters.
4) The Marco Rubio mystery bill: It's still in the drafting stages, but the alternative proposed by the freshman GOP senator from Florida and potential vice-presidential pick is already drawing criticism after reports that while it would allow qualifying young people to obtain legal status, it would not provide them with a path to citizenship. According to The Hill, Rubio, who has opposed the original Dream Act, and fellow Republicans working on the bill don't plan to unveil it until "after GOP front-runner Mitt Romney has clinched the presidential nomination."
It's going to be interesting to see if any of the leaner versions move forward. The original bill in all its versions has never been able to clear Congress, making compromises a possibility, but a bill that leaves citizenship out of the deal may also have trouble attracting widespread support.
There's also a bill first introduced in 2009 called the People Resolved to Obtain an Understanding of Democracy (PROUD) Act, reintroduced in January by Democratic Rep. Joe Baca of California, which would let qualifying undocumented high school graduates apply for naturalization.
Meanwhile, Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada has hinted at a possible vote on the current version of the Dream Act before November.