Immigration Reform
11:34 am
Mon January 28, 2013

Rubio Says We 'Can't Round Up And Deport Millions'

Rubio has become a leading voice for the group’s plan.
Credit Gage Skidmore/Flickr

Florida’s Marco Rubio is among a group of eight Democratic and Republican Senators unveiling a bipartisan immigration plan today.

The deal could clear a pathway to citizenship, increase guest-worker permits and tighten border security. The group of Senators, or the "Gang of Eight" as they are often called, are working on the specifics of the deal and want to draft legislation by March.

Miami Herald political reporter Marc Caputo writes that Rubio has become a leading voice for the group’s plan, which includes many of the ideas Rubio has discussed on conservative media over the past month:

Most controversially, the proposal would give a pathway to residency—and even citizenship—to many of the estimated 11 million immigrants unlawfully in the United States.

While some conservatives call it amnesty, Rubio says it’s not because the immigrants would have to pay fines, back taxes and undergo a criminal background check—a similar proposal made by President Barack Obama in May 2011.

“We can’t round up millions of people and deport them,” Rubio wrote in the Las Vegas Review Journal Sunday. “But we also can’t fix our broken immigration system if we provide incentives for people to come here illegally—precisely the signal a blanket amnesty would send.”

The Senators’ plan is made up of four legislative “pillars.”

  1. Create a tough but fair path to citizenship for unauthorized immigrants currently living in the United States that is contingent upon securing our borders and tracking whether legal immigrants have left the country when required;
  2. Reform our legal immigration system to better recognize the importance of characteristics that will help build the American economy and strengthen American families;
  3. Create an effective employment verification system that will prevent identity theft and end the hiring of future unauthorized workers;
  4. Establish an improved process for admitting future workers to serve our nation’s workforce needs, while simultaneously protecting all workers.

Many of the details of the plan have not been worked out, such as how much the reforms will cost and how long people would have to wait for citizenship. Caputo says people need to remember there is not yet a bill.

“The cliché is that the devil is in the details, but the cliché is very true,” Caputo told WLRN. “How you structure things, how much things cost, how long it will take for the border fence to be defined as ‘secure,’ all of that stuff is not really written down in specifics, and specifics really rule the day.” 

The group includes Republicans Marco Rubio, South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham, Arizona’s John McCain and Jeff Flake, as well as Democrats Charles Schumer of New York, Michigan’s Richard Durbin, Colorado’s Michael Bennett and New Jersey’s Bob Menendez.

Caputo writes that House Republicans seem content to let the Senate lead the initiative which, because of support from several high-ranking Senators, looks likely to pass.

Rubio has close ties to Miami Republican Reps IleanaRos-Lehtinen and Mario Diaz Balart, who have bucked their own party over immigration and are likely to support the effort. Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, a former vice-presidential candidate, said he supported Rubio’s proposal.

The group of eight senators want to have everything voted on by the August recess.