(CNSNews.com) - Illegal immigration opponents Thursday said President Bush and congressional Republicans risk losing their core voter base in national elections next year by embracing measures that would grant amnesty to illegal aliens. The remarks came as the Senate Judiciary Committee held a markup session on a bill that would allow in-state collegiate tuition and residency for illegal immigrants.
"The Bush administration wants to push for some form of amnesty but hasn't come to terms with how to do that without offending its political base," David Ray, spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), told CNSNews.com.
Ray pointed to numerous independent polls, which he said show Americans "overwhelmingly" reject policies that either allow more illegal aliens in the country or reward those who are already in the United States.
The Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act (DREAM Act - S.1545), sponsored by Judiciary Committee Chairman Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), would specifically lift the federal ban that prevents states from allowing illegal aliens to pay in-state tuition for college.
The bill would also grant conditional resident status for illegals under 16 years of age who have lived in the country more than five years if they graduate high school, are accepted by a university, serve in the armed forces or perform community service.
Ray said the administration views the DREAM Act as a tool for creating exemptions for illegal immigrants deserving of sympathy. But he added that the bill would also "allow the Democrats to turn the fledgling measure into a vulture."
"The final piece of the puzzle will fall into place when the whole measure is placed on an appropriations bill," Ray said. Once that occurs, according to Ray, no one will be able to do anything to defeat it.
"History has taught us that that's how this measure will move," Ray said.
But bill supporters disagree.
"I believe the DREAM Act will live up to its name," Hatch said on the Senate floor when introducing the measure July 31. "It will allow these illegal immigrant children the opportunity to not only dream of the infinite possibilities that their futures may hold in the United States, but it will also afford them the opportunity to realize their dreams.
"With the passage of the DREAM Act, the United States stands to benefit enormously," Hatch added.
Ray noted that the only people who would benefit from the act are the 8 to 12 million illegal immigrants here in violation of federal law. He said it would open the floodgates to millions more immigrants looking to come to the United States even if meant breaking the law.
"The Republicans are being naive if they don't see the DREAM Act as the vehicle by which the Democrats are going to push for the extension of general amnesty for the whole illegal alien population currently in the United States," Ray said.
"The most troubling thing is that not only is amnesty a bad idea, but nobody seems to be addressing: What about the illegal aliens who arrive the day after the bill passes? Are they going to have an amnesty as well? Isn't that in essence just surrendering the sovereignty of America to any and every one who wants to come here?" Ray added.
Hatch responded to that interpretation in a Sept. 4 release, saying the DREAM Act benefits American society in general.
"As a nation, we cannot hand pick a better group of individuals to become part of our society. By definition, DREAM Act beneficiaries are extraordinary people. They are young men and women who have grown up in the United States, who are loyal to our country and who have graduated from high school," Hatch said.
"And more importantly, they are young people who desire to obtain higher education, serve our communities as volunteers or join the military," Hatch added. "The DREAM Act makes productive citizens out of young people who are already living in our country, which benefits all of us."
Hatch also addressed criticism that the DREAM Act would lead to more illegal aliens.
"The fact is that the DREAM Act was carefully drafted to avoid precisely this problem. The act specifically limits eligibility to those who entered the United States five years or more prior to the bill's enactment. It applies to a limited number of people who have already resided in the United States for at least five years and who have demonstrated favorable equities in and significant ties to the United States," Hatch explained.
"Let me clear up any confusion on this point once and for all: Anyone who entered the United States less than five years prior to the enactment of this bill, or who plans to enter the United States illegally in the future, will not be covered by the DREAM Act," Hatch added.
Yet Ray was unconvinced by Hatch's statement.
"What we're seeing right now with the discussion of the (DREAM) Act...is our legislators making every possible attempt to try to dress this up and try to present it as something that it's not - to try to disguise the fact that what they're pushing through is a measure that will be received as politically radioactive by the public," Ray said
"The Republicans are at the beck and call of big business that wants a never-ending supply of cheap workers," Ray said, "and Democrats are pushing for an amnesty because they know that these illegals will be future Democratic voters."
Because of time limitations, Hatch's panel did not report the bill out of committee Thursday. It will be taken up again Oct. 23.
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