Unveiling Today: Rubio Key in Bipartisan Senators' Blueprint for Immigration
Around the State
Marco Rubio of Florida has been a key player in a bipartisan group of eight senators looking to effect a top-to-bottom overhaul of the nation's immigration system.
The blueprint -- to be unveiled in Washington on Monday, one day before President Obama outlines his own, more liberal immigration proposals -- includes a pathway to American citizenship for 11 million illegal immigrants and will hinge on progress in securing the borders and ensuring that foreigners leave the country when their visas expire.
“There’s always political ramifications to everything we do or fail to do, but my motivation on immigration is not the politics of it,” 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.
Rubio, a Cuban-American, insisted on including the exit tracking system as one of the triggers for opening the path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. He said he's seen estimates that as many as 40 percent of immigrants in the country illegally have overstayed their visas.
In order to put his name to the document, Rubio insisted that any immigrants who gained legal status under the legislation “be required to go to the back of the line” behind other immigrants who applied to come through legal channels.
Besides Rubio, the eight senators expected to endorse the new principles Monday are Democrats Charles Schumer of New York, Dick Durbin of Illinois, Robert Menendez of New Jersey and Michael Bennet of Colorado; and Republicans John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and Jeff Flake of Arizona.
Other aspects of the senators' plan include:
* An immediate strengthening of border security with new technology, including aerial drones, for border patrol agents.
* A Department of Homeland Security blueprint for expanding exit control -- doing as a job of tracking departures of foreigners who leave the country by land as is now done at most airports and seaports.
* Immigrants here illegally registering with the government. After passing background checks and paying back taxes and fines, those immigrants would receive a “probationary legal status.” Such status would give them the right to live and work legally in the United States. Important: They would not be eligible for most federal public benefits.
* Establishment of a mandatory nationwide program to verify the legal status of new hires. The details of whether that would include some form of identity card remain sketchy.
* Proposed enforcement measures be complete before any immigrant on probationary status can earn a green card.
* Offer major exemptions from requirements for citizenship to young immigrants here illegally, who came to United States as children; it would give them a faster path to becoming Americans.
* Giving immigrant farmworkers a separate and faster path to citizenship.
Sticking points ahead include difficult negotiations over how long immigrants who gain provisional status would have to wait before applying for citizenship. Rubio’s ideas, for instance, are for a far longer and less direct pathway than Democrats would like.
Rubio was also sponsor of an accompanying bill to offer more visas to highly educated technology workers. It is expected to become part of the more comprehensive measure the other senators are preparing.
Reach Nancy Smith at email@example.com or at (850) 727-0859.