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House GOP Leaders Endorse Legalization for Some DREAMers

Of the 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States, roughly 2 million came as children with their parents.

And that group—known popularly as DREAMers—are the only unauthorized immigrants so far to be viewed by Republican leaders in the U.S. House of Representatives as possible candidates for earning legal status. That very issue will be front and center at this afternoon's hearing in a subcommittee of the House Judiciary panel. (C-SPAN3 will carry the hearing live, starting at 2 p.m. Eastern.)

On a bipartisan basis, the U.S. Senate last month approved a sweeping overhaul of U.S. immigration laws, which includes immediate permanent legal residency to those DREAMers who entered the United States younger than 16 and a five-year path to citizenship for all DREAMers who meet certain eligibility criteria. The bill also would establish a 13-year path for most other immigrants without legal status.

While most Republican members of the House oppose a path to citizenship for most undocumented immigrants, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., have recently endorsed the idea that those who were brought illegally to the United States as children by their parents shouldn't be penalized. Cantor is working on legislation to address this population of immigrants.

But many DREAMers themselves are fiercely opposed to a measure that does not also create a path to citizenship for their own parents and all undocumented immigrants. The House Republican bill focused on DREAMers has not been released, but advocates expect it will be more limited than the DREAM Act provisions in the Senate bill, which creates the expedited path to citizenship for undocumented youth who meet a range of eligibility criteria, such as a high school diploma, GED, two years of college completion, or military service.

This House Republican openness on legalization for DREAMers—a recent development—is drawing charges of hypocrisy, and includes an acid rebuke of U.S. Rep. John Kline, the Minnesota Republican who chairs the House education committee. That rebuke, from a Democratic political action committee that targets House GOP members, is aimed at Kline, whose congressional seat is a big target in the next round of elections. Kline has not stated his position on Cantor's still-to-be-seen bill, but has voted against DREAM Act provisions in the past.

DREAMers have been busy messaging against the Cantor legislation, expected to be called the "Kids Act."

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Photo credit: United We Dream

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