Different Dreams: Alberto Gonzales and Marco Rubio

Dallas Morning News, June 13, 2012

By: Gabriel Escobar
June 11, 2012

The grandparents of Alberto Gonzales arrived to work the fields and farms of Texas in the early part of the 20th century, when crossing north was commonplace and immigration was neither legal nor illegal.

Like the hard work that awaited countless Mexicans, migration was just a fact of life on the porous border.

You can see how this family lore shapes the views of Gonzales, the 80th attorney general of the United States. To him the border is more than a pressing policy matter. It is personal history, deeply felt.

That came across today when he addressed the Southeast Summit on Immigration, which is designed to offer an alternative GOP view on this contentious subject.

Gonzales, in the keynote speech, advocated for comprehensive immigration reform and criticized his own party for the tone and tenor of the immigration debate.

Most significantly—and without naming names—he implicitly criticized Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida for offering a Republican version of the Dream Act that would not include eventual legalization for those students who qualify.

Gonzales acknowledged that there is a bipartisan push in Washington to back Rubio’s legislation—in part because it may be the only way to advance this cause. But he also made it clear that this accommodation is shortsighted and punishes those who should be embraced.

“These are precisely the type of individuals we would all want as citizens,” Gonzales told those attending the summit, which is being held in Atlanta and sponsored by the National Immigration Forum.
Rubio’s effort, yet to be introduced, addresses concern among some Republicans that Dream Act beneficiaries would be able to sponsor relatives for residency and citizenship once their own status was formalized.

Rubio’s legislation would leave thousands in a kind of permanent limbo, citizens of nowhere. Gonzales rightly noted that Congress would probably have to revisit the legislation at some point for this very reason. “Do we address it now?” he asked. “Or do we deal with it later?”

A related argument against the full Dream Act is that the parents who brought these children in—the real lawbreakers—would be rewarded. On this front, Gonzales offered something I had not heard before. He suggested that the law be written so that Dream Act beneficiaries could sponsor only spouses or children, explicitly barring their parents from residency. Given the impasse, that seems a reasonable accommodation.

Something else I had not heard before: Gonzales said that during his tenure as AG the Bush administration weighed whether illegal immigrants could be deported en masse, something few think possible.

The answer?

“Let me be clear,” Gonzales said. “Our government is incapable of forcibly removing millions of people.”


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