(Photo: REUTERS/Gary Cameron)
Sen. Marco Rubio was quick to express opposition to a leaked draft of a White House immigration plan, which calls for a new visa for undocumented immigrants and would allow them to become legal permanent residents within eight years.
The bill would create an eight-year path to residency for illegal immigrants and allow them to apply for a newly created "Lawful Prospective Immigrant," USA Today reported Saturday. If approved, they could apply for the same provisional legal status for their spouse or children living outside the country.
The bill, which the newspaper says it obtained from an Obama administration official who said it was being distributed to various agencies, would provide for more security funding and require business owners to check the immigration status of new hirees within four years. It also seeks more border patrol agents and to add 140 immigration judges to the bench to adjudicate cases speedily.
The proposal is being circulated even as a bipartisan group in the GOP-controlled House of Representatives has long been negotiating an immigration proposal and is writing its own bill. Rubio, who is one of the four Republican senators who last month joined with four Democratic senators to announce their agreement on the general outlines of an immigration plan, issued a statement Saturday to oppose the bill.
"It's a mistake for the White House to draft immigration legislation without seeking input from Republican members of Congress, the Republican senator from Florida said. "President Obama's leaked immigration proposal is disappointing to those of us working on a serious solution."
Rubio said Obama's bill repeats the failures of past legislation. "It fails to follow through on previously broken promises to secure our borders, creates a special pathway that puts those who broke our immigration laws at an advantage over those who chose to do things the right way and come here legally, and does nothing to address guest workers or future flow, which serious immigration experts agree is critical to preventing future influxes of illegal immigrants."
The senator, who was elected in 2010 to his first U.S. Senate term, called the legislation "half-baked and seriously flawed." "It would actually make our immigration problems worse, and would further undermine the American people's confidence in Washington's ability to enforce our immigration laws and reform our broken immigration system."
Last month, President Obama announced his support for a bipartisan compromise on immigration reform by the Senate's "gang of eight." If the gang of eight proposal fails, the president had said, he will submit his own legislation to Congress. The three principles that immigration reform should include, he added, are border security, a path to citizenship for current undocumented immigrants, and making immigration easier for immigrants trained in science and technology.
Rubio last month laid out his reform plan that would make it easier for skilled engineers and seasonal farm workers to immigrate, apart from strengthening border enforcement and immigration laws. He favors dealing with the millions of undocumented migrants in the country by allowing them to "earn" a working permit, and eventually citizenship.
"I don't think that in the 21st century we can continue to have an immigration system where only 6.5 percent of people who come here, come here based on labor and skill," he said while outlining his plan, and added that the nation should move toward merit and skill-based immigration. "They would have to come forward. They would have to undergo a background check. … They would have to pay a fine, pay back taxes, maybe even do community service. They would have to prove they've been here for an extended period of time. They understand some English and are assimilated. Then most of them would get legal status and be allowed to stay in this country."
If the President's bill is actually proposed, it would be "dead on arrival" in Congress, "leaving us with unsecured borders and a broken legal immigration system for years to come," Rubio said in the statement Saturday.