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Republicans want to create second-class citizens. You're not DREAMing.

Republicans haven't abandoned extreme positions on immigration. They've just transferred controversial proposals to the state level.

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They would do so by creating a new category of “state citizen,” in addition to “national citizen,” by which these states could then deprive these children of “state citizenship.” They have also promoted the idea of issuing different birth certificates to the children of undocumented parents, which would mark them as non-citizens.

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Though the birthright citizenship proposals have (rightfully) proven more controversial, Senator Hutchison’s idea would still do something similar: create a permanent under-class of non-citizen immigrants. For DREAM students, as for future children of undocumented immigrants, this country would be all they know, their true home. But Republican lawmakers ignore that fact, and instead propose treating these youths as indefinite visitors who will never attain the rights that, politicians never tire of telling us, make America a light unto the world.

Original DREAM was the answer. Will GOP wise up?

The original DREAM Act remains the best solution to the problem of undocumented youth. DREAM demands that, to “earn” citizenship, students pay a fine, attend college or join the military, and remain ineligible for public benefits for years. This tough bargain was enough in recent years to ensure support from Republicans, including Republican Senators Lisa Murkowsi of Arkansas and Richard Lugar of Indiana and former Senator Robert Bennett of Utah in 2010. Now, the GOP must come back to the table.

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In recent months, some Republicans (notably Jeb Bush, who hosted a Hispanic Leadership Network Conference in January) have realized that the GOP needs to present a more compassionate face on immigration to avoid alienating Latino voters. Quite simply, these leaders know they need to perform better among Latinos in swing states to win the White House in 2012.

With some luck, enlightened self-interest could push GOP leaders to adopt a more sensible and compassionate stance on immigration. But the “revised” DREAM proposal from Hutchison and attacks on birthright citizenship by Republican state lawmakers augur poorly for such a shift.

Daniel Altschuler is a Copeland Fellow at Amherst College and has written extensively on immigration politics.

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