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National

'Achieve Act' A Republican Answer To Dream Act

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

I'm Melissa Block. And we begin this hour with talk of immigration reform. Dealing with the estimated 12 million immigrants now in the U.S. illegally has long been a priority, primarily of Democrats. Three weeks ago, Latinos voted overwhelmingly for President Obama. As NPR's David Welna reports, Senate Republicans weighed in today, unveiling legislation that would give some undocumented immigrants a path to legal status.

DAVID WELNA, BYLINE: It was two border state and soon-to-be-retiring Republican Senators who introduced what they're calling the Achieve Act. Arizona's Jon Kyl said it aims to get the ball rolling on immigration.

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WELNA: The GOP proposal, in many ways, parallels the so-called Dream Act sponsored by Democrats and blocked repeatedly by Republicans. Both would allow children brought into the country illegally by their parents to stay. But Texas Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison says the bill she's cosponsoring has stricter requirements.

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WELNA: Asked whether Republicans were rushing this legislation out in response to their poor showing among Latinos, Arizona's Kyl denied having electoral motives.

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WELNA: University of Washington political scientist Matt Baretto is cofounder of the polling firm Latino Decisions. He doubts GOP claims that the election has nothing to do with the party's new push on immigration.

MATT BARETTO: If they had been working on this for a long time, we would have seen this bill in the House or the Senate years ago. And I think the election results sent a very clear message to Republicans - and especially those from states with large Latino populations - that they need to have smarter solutions on immigration.

WELNA: Still, at a House reception today for Mexico's president-elect, Enrique Pena Nieto, no Republican leader showed up. California House Democrat Xavier Becerra was there, and he welcomes today's move by Senate Republicans on immigration.

REPRESENTATIVE XAVIER BECERRA: It's good that Republicans are beginning to talk about immigration reform, and so let's get it done. If they've got some ideas, great, let's move forward. We can get this done, the whole package, this coming year.

WELNA: South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham - who's been pushing a broader immigration reform package off and on in the last several years - also hailed this latest initiative.

SENATOR LINDSEY GRAHAM: I think it's good for the country to get this issue solved. I just hope that, in a bipartisan way, we can fix broken borders, control who comes here to get a job and deal with the 12 million in a firm, fair way and not have 12 million 20 years from now, get a permanent fix. If we don't, we're letting the country down.

WELNA: Graham's worked with New York Democratic Senator Charles Schumer on immigration. Schumer says the bill rolled out today falls far short of what's needed.

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WELNA: Lawmakers from both parties agreed there's little chance of anything being done on immigration before the new Congress begins in January. By then, both of the sponsors of today's proposal will have retired. David Welna, NPR News, the Capitol. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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