By Ashley Lopez
Florida Center for Investigative Reporting
President Barack Obama announced yesterday that he will release and pursue his own immigration reform plans if Congress doesn’t act quickly on its own.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., along with eight other senators from both parties released their immigration plans. So far, the plan is receiving broad support, including the president’s. The only pushback to the so-called “Gang of 8″ has come from conservative Tea Party members of the House who oppose any immigration reform bill that does not greatly increase spending on border control and security. Many of those same lawmakers have also taken issue with parts of the bill that give a path to citizenship to people who are undocumented.
However, so far the senators have proposed delaying part of the reform process until more immigration enforcement has resulted in a more secure border. As of yet, though, the lawmakers involved have disagreed on exactly how that would be determined.
Obama announced that he wanted Congress to work quickly to move these plans forward and get immigration passed, once and for all.
If they don’t, Yahoo! News reports that the president will take action.
“If Congress is unable to move forward in a timely fashion, I will send up a bill based on my proposal and insist that they vote on it right away,” Obama said to applause from students at Del Sol High School.
“It looks like there’s a genuine desire to get this done soon, and that’s very encouraging,” Obama said, mentioning a blueprint put forward by a bipartisan group of eight senators on Monday. “But this time action must follow.”
In his speech, Obama laid out “markers” for reform, saying any comprehensive immigration bill must give most of the nation’s 11 million illegal immigrants a chance to earn their citizenship gradually if they pay a fine, learn English and pass a background check. Immigrants would also have to get to “the back of the line,” which means people who have already applied for green cards would have their applications processed first.
The president’s bill would also include an employment verification system, more border security and a revamping of the legal immigration system to provide more visas for top graduates of U.S. universities and to reduce lengthy wait times for visas for relatives of U.S. citizens.
The Los Angeles Times reported that the White House’s bill would be slightly more favored by the left because it would would streamline a path to citizenship.
White House officials made it clear that on several important details, the president prefers a more liberal approach than the one outlined Monday by eight senators — four from each party.
He would like to see a faster, simpler path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million people who live illegally in the U.S. His preferred plan would also put less emphasis on additional border security. But unlike the negotiations over the budget, which have dominated much of Obama’s time since November’s election, so far he has chosen to avoid confrontation on immigration.
The Los Angeles Times also pointed out that “under the president’s plan, same-sex married couples would have the same rights as heterosexual couples to sponsor partners for legal immigration status, a right not included in the Senate plan.”
Already, Sen. Rubio has announced that he didn’t support the president’s more liberal plan.
Here is Rubio’s statement via The Tampa Bay Times:
“I am concerned by the President’s unwillingness to accept significant enforcement triggers before current undocumented immigrants can apply for a green card. Without such triggers in place, enforcement systems will never be implemented and we will be back in just a few years dealing with millions of new undocumented people in our country. Furthermore, the President ignored the need for a modernized guest worker program that will ensure those who want to immigrate legally to meet our economy’s needs can do so in the future.
“Finally, the President’s speech left the impression that he believes reforming immigration quickly is more important than reforming immigration right. A reform of our immigration laws is a consequential undertaking that deserves to be subjected to scrutiny and input from all involved.”
Experts have said that GOP success in immigration reform could help the Republican Party make inroads with Hispanic communities. President Obama won his re-election partly due to support from Latino voters nationwide.
The Republican Party is hoping to pick up some of those voters in the next big election.