Sen. Marco Rubio wants to clamp down on English requirements in immigration reform. (Photo by Sarah Elliott.)

By Ashley Lopez
Florida Center for Investigative Reporting

Sen. Marco Rubio is continuing his push to make the U.S. Senate’s immigration reform bill more palatable to conservatives by adding some stricter English-language requirements in the legislation he helped create.

Among his other new projects: Rubio, a Republican, has said he will not support the Senate’s comprehensive immigration reform bill if it doesn’t include more border security measures. Rubio has not yet offered an amendment to strengthen border security, but his office has told reporters they are working out something.

Many of the more conservative members of the U.S. Senate have cited border security as one of the their main complaints about the bill, as well as a component of the bill that offers a lengthy path to citizenship to many of the millions of undocumented immigrants currently in the United States.

The criticism of Rubio and the immigration bill among GOP lawmakers has been persistent since it was announced that immigration reform would include a path to citizenship, but it is nothing compared to the backlash that Rubio has received from the conservative media.

However, Rubio started work that could get some conservatives back in his corner. This week, he introduced an amendment that would require immigrants to be proficient in English before obtaining permanent residency status.

According to The Washington Post:

Under the current bill, immigrants would have to earn English proficiency or show they are enrolled in a language course. Rubio, a member of the bipartisan group that developed the legislation, plans to offer an amendment that would eliminate the second provision and require that undocumented immigrants be able to read, write and speak English before earning a green card.

The Senate bill allows undocumented immigrants to apply for a green card after 10 years and then apply for citizenship three years later.

Here is a part of Rubio’s statement about the amendment, via the Tampa Bay Times:

“On the day we announced the principles that would shape the immigration bill, we made it clear that English proficiency would now be required for permanent residency for the first time in American history,” Rubio said in a release. “This amendment ensures that will be the case.

“Since the bill was introduced two months ago, the open and transparent process it has undergone has elicited constructive criticisms to improve it. This is one of the bill’s shortcomings that came to light, which we can now fix.”

The Miami Herald noted that this possible requirement could have “an interesting effect in Rubio’s home of Miami-Dade County, a Spanish-speaking bastion where many immigrants legal and illegal can get by for years without having to speak English.”

Rubio has been one of the key players in getting immigration reform on the Senate’s agenda this year. He is one of the visible members of the Senate’s bipartisan Gang of Eight, which crafted the bill.

While Democrats overall have been in favor of the bill, many ranti-amnesty Republicans have been opposing the Gang of Eight’s bill.

However, the biggest fight for immigration reform will take place in the GOP-led U.S. House of Representatives.

This week, both Rubio and Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida, cast a procedural vote to move immigration reform into consideration, along with much of the Senate. The bill is now going face is last hurdles in the coming months.