It's been three months since US Senator Marco Rubio, considered by many to be the crown prince of the GOP, announced that he was working on an alternative to the contentious DREAM Act. Press hype and speculation have made it one of the most highly anticipated bills ever, but Rubio has yet to produce a written proposal. Alex Leary of the Tampa Bay Times reports on the growing frustration.
"He gets all this sweet press and we haven't seen word one. It is getting a little frustrating," said Frank Sharry, executive director of America's Voice, an immigration reform group that has been receptive to the idea, which would grant legal status to some children of illegal immigrants.
Rubio acknowledged the frustration and anxiety on Wednesday but could not offer a time line beyond âsoon'. Nor would he reveal whether he has been able to garner support.
"What we want to make sure is we have answers to all the questions, that when we propose this, it's not something that immediately people can start attacking," he said. "This is important legislation; it has to be done the right way."
The bill, when unveiled, is expected to create non-immigrant visas for children of illegal immigrants who have already completed high school and are studying at college. The crucial difference between Rubio's plan and the DREAM Act is that it doesn't provide an alternate route to citizenship which has been heavily criticized for being an effective amnesty.
"I don't doubt his sincerity," said Ali Noorani of the National Immigration Forum, "but the benchmark here is legislation. It would be good to see what kind of support he has."
Sharry, who has proven critical of Rubio's immigration positions before, is not without sympathy for the Senator. It is a contentious issue that, if handled badly, could derail Rubio's promising political career.
"Normally when a Republican sticks their head out on immigration, they get creamed by the far right," he said "He's showing Republican senators it's not as bad as you think. But that has to be followed by a concrete proposal. If we don't see anything in the next three or four weeks, that's a sign he can't get the support."
Rubio has been working with Gaby Pacheco, a DREAM Act advocate, on the proposal and meeting with legislators from both parties as he works out the fine details. He has also reportedly been consulting young people who would be directly affected by his DREAM alternative.
Numbers USA, an anti-immigration group that claims illegal immigrants take jobs from citizens has been lobbying Republican Senators to oppose Rubio's plan.