Marco Rubio Takes the Lead in Immigration Reform
Around the State
As Washington leaders rush to put together comprehensive immigration plans, traditionally partisan officials are putting differences aside to address the millions of illegal immigrants living in the country.
“There’s always political ramifications to everything we do or fail to do, but my motivation on immigration is not the politics of it,” Sen. Marco Rubio told Florida Watchdog last week. “My motivation is to solve a serious problem that our country faces, my community faces, my state faces.”
The rising star of the GOP is seen as the most conservative voice calling for reform, despite his initial opposition to the DREAM Act, the failed Senate plan that would have legalized hundreds of thousands of undocumented youth enrolled in school or in the military.
The proposal offered by Rubio, though not yet in writing, would deport those who have committed serious or violent crimes.
Those without a criminal record would be subject to a background check, hours of community service, fines and back taxes. Then they would be offered a temporary visa while they complete the paperwork for a green card.
“I define amnesty as a special pathway to citizenship. Our plan is not that,” said Rubio.
“After you’re in that status for a significant, but not unreasonable, period of time, and after we have made significant progress in securing our borders, workplace enforcement and tracking the entry and exit of visas, then these individuals who have not violated the conditions of that process will be allowed to get in line through the regular immigration process, just like anybody else, and apply for a green card,” he added. “The good news for them is that they won’t have to leave the country while they’re waiting. They’ll be here legally working.”
And his plan seems to line up with that of his colleagues across the aisle.
“Our plan is not amnesty,” said Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, a Democrat.
Villaraigosa proposes strengthening the borders, having immigrants pay back taxes, pass a background check, learn English and follow the path to citizenship. He would also eliminate the controversial immigration enforcement program known as Safe Communities, which allows local law enforcement to enforce federal immigration law.
“I’m working with a group of eight senators, bipartisan, who realize the time is now, and my hope is that both parties will work together to fix this broken immigration system,” he told US News on Wednesday.
Though there is not yet a concrete immigration plan in the House or Senate, both Rubio and Villaraigosa remain confident that the political parties will come together.
“I think there is a strong national consensus on this position,” Rubio told Florida Watchdog. “It’s our job to write laws and to pass them. My hope for the president is we’re going to find out if the White House is serious about doing something real on this. If they are, then they’ll line up behind common-sense efforts like we’re talking about that have so far garnered support across the political spectrum.
“It is not just to deal with people who are here illegally, but to modernize the legal immigration system and strengthen current laws,” he said.
During President Barack Obama‘s first term, more than 1.4 million illegal immigrants have been deported from the U.S.
Ediberto Román, professor of law at Florida International University, said the consensus on immigration reform exists because of the efforts of activists known as “dreamers,” young students intent on immigration reform, as well as the important Hispanic influence in the 2012 elections.
“We’ll see what they do because it is a political issue,” Román told Florida Watchdog.
According to the Pew Hispanic Center, 71 percent of Hispanics across the country voted for Obama in the 2012 election.
Román, author of the book "The Other American Colonies: An International and Constitutional Law Examination of the United States’ Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Island Conquests," said both parties want to have Hispanic support, especially after seeing how it helped Democratic gains during the November election.
“I see a major shift toward the Republican Party. For the first time in history, we see both parties supporting the same reform on this issue,” he said. “The party that finds the solution will be entitled to get majority support from Hispanics.”
Contact Miami-based Marianela Toledo at Marianela.Toledo@FloridaWatchdog.org.