Rubio Immigration Plan: Reform Piece-by-Piece, Starting with the Kids
Around the State
As Republicans regain their bearings after last week's electoral defeats, and struggle to sell their ideology to a disenfranchised electorate, Florida's junior senator is getting ready to renew an effort that might resonate with the nation's Hispanics: immigration reform.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., is drafting his own legislative alternative to the mostly Democrat-backed Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, which has failed to pass both chambers of Congress. Rubio’s proposal would grant legal status, and eligibility to receive in-state university tuition, to those who illegally immigrated to the United States as minors, have kept out of trouble with the law, and are enrolled in college or the military. But it does not provide an automatic pass to citizenship, the way the DREAM Act does.
There’s just one problem: Rubio’s been floating his idea since April, but hasn’t actually produced a text.
“We’re not going to introduce a bill until we are confident it can gather a bipartisan consensus and be signed by this president,” Alex Conant, Rubio’s press secretary, told Sunshine State News.
Rubio’s proposal, which some have dubbed a “DREAM Act Light,” garnered quite a bit of public attention earlier this year, before it was effectively shelved by President Obama’s June executive order signaling his administration’s resolve not to enforce illegal immigration laws against the very minors who would be covered by DREAM-like legislation.
“We had detailed ideas that we were working out with [Rubio’s Senate] colleagues as well as other stakeholders, including DREAM activists themselves,” Conant tells the News. “We were optimistic that Senator Rubio’s ideas would be turned into legislation and passed. With the president’s executive order, which basically kicked the can down the road for a couple of years, the urgency to pass something this year disappeared.”
Rubio has criticized Obama’s executive order, saying that “by once again ignoring the Constitution and going around Congress, this short-term policy will make it harder to find a balanced and responsible long-term one.”
The Obama administration insists that the president’s order does not violate the law, but is nothing more sinister than a prudent exercise of prosecutorial discretion.
Conant says Rubio is no fan of comprehensive immigration reform, though he will examine other legislators’ proposals with an open mind.
“Senator Rubio has always said that the best way to tackle immigration reform is not comprehensively, but sequentially,” he tells the News. “Rather than trying to pass everything in one big bill that a lot of people are going to find fault with, you pass things one at a time and find some consensus, starting with measures dealing with the children of illegal immigrants. When we get that done, then we can move on to other problems with our system.”
Rubio has resisted suggestions that he attach other immigration-related measures to his own.
“For example, he has rejected proposals to include border security in his very focused and limited bill,” Conant says. “He does believe we need to secure the borders, but work has been done on that front over the last couple of years.”
Conant says we can expect to see an actual bill “sooner, rather than later,” probably in early 2013.
“These kids still need a permanent solution,” Conant says. “We are cautiously optimistic that the senator’s alternative – which legalizes their status and puts them on the way to the regular legal immigration system, so some day they can seek to become permanent residents and legal citizens just like any other immigrant – will pass Congress.”
Conant told the News that Sen. Rubio has not consulted Florida Gov. Rick Scott or the Florida Legislature for input on his proposed legislation, despite the fact that Florida has one of the largest illegal immigrant populations in the country.
Reach Eric Giunta at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (954) 235-9116.