By Ashley Lopez
Florida Center for Investigative Reporting
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-FL, has been making it known that he is taking on the herculean task of drafting comprehensive immigration reform. His plans could not come a moment too soon as the right and left look to Rubio for the next step.
This week, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Goldwater Institute VP Clint Bolick wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal calling for immediate, sweeping changes to the country’s immigration laws.
Some policy makers are calling for piecemeal changes—such as issuing visas for high-skilled workers and investors, or conferring legal status on immigrants who were illegally brought into the country as children. Congress should avoid such quick fixes and commit itself instead to comprehensive immigration reform.
In some conservative circles, the word “comprehensive” in the context of immigration reform is an epithet—a code word for amnesty. People who oppose such reform declare that securing the United States border must come before moving toward broader reform.
Such an approach is shortsighted and self-defeating. Border security is inextricably intertwined with other aspects of immigration policy. The best way to prevent illegal immigration is to make sure that we have a fair and workable system of legal immigration. The current immigration system is neither.
Bush and Bolick insisted that Democrats and Republicans need to talk about many issues neither party wants to face. Among them: the fact that ”it is not law enforcement but the law itself that is broken, the U.S. needs workers of all types, the driver of immigration policy is ‘chain migration,’ and amnesty promotes illegal immigration.”
So far, the only person that has raised a hand to take on this task has been Rubio. And everyone else is waiting.
Bush has been a longtime supporter of Rubio’s plan and has shown interest in what Rubio eventually takes to Congress.
This week, White Press Secretary Jay Carney was asked whether the president was looking to work with Rubio on immigration reform. Carney said that he hadn’t seen Rubio’s full plan yet, but was interested in his ideas.
The President looks forward to working with Congress, members of both parties. He has always said that this is the kind of thing that has to be bipartisan and has in the past enjoyed bipartisan support from Republican leaders as well as rank-and-file senators and members of Congress.
President George W. Bush, as you know, was a strong proponent of comprehensive immigration reform, as was Senator McCain. And the President looks forward to working with Republicans and Democrats in achieving comprehensive immigration reform. He does absolutely believe that we need to do this in a comprehensive way, that that’s the appropriate way to move forward to ensure that we put in place the kind of comprehensive reform that achieves all the goals that are necessary here.
So far, only parts of Rubio’s immigration plans have trickled out.
The New York Times was able to chat with Rubio about his plan. Here are some of the things that Rubio’s plan tackles:
- “A nationwide exit system to check foreigners out of the country, to confirm that they left before their visas expired.”
- “A nationwide program for employers to verify the legal authorization of new workers.”
- “His plan would give a temporary “nonimmigrant visa” to illegal immigrants, which would allow them to remain and work in the United States. They would have to wait a “significant but reasonable” period of time before they could apply to become legal permanent residents, going to the back of the line in the existing system. Once they became residents, they could go on like other legal immigrants to naturalize as citizens.”
The Times also reported that ”Rubio’s principles did not sound very different from outlines for an overhaul that President Obama has offered.”
Rubio plans to release his proposal before the president’s State of the Union address.