Monday, February 18, 2013

Rubio Vs. White House on Immigration Reform

Posted By on Mon, Feb 18, 2013 at 4:00 PM

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Over the weekend, USA Today gave a peek at a leaked draft of an Obama administration immigration reform plan.

A draft of a White House immigration proposal obtained by USA TODAY would allow illegal immigrants to become legal permanent residents within eight years.

The plan also would provide for more security funding and require business owners to check the immigration status of new hires within four years. In addition, the nation's 11 million illegal immigrants could apply for a newly created "Lawful Prospective Immigrant" visa, under the draft bill being written by the White House.

If approved, they could then apply for the same provisional legal status for their spouse or children living outside the country, according to the draft.

Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, who is straddling a tricky divide as he attempts to mollify the GOP base and reach out to the Hispanic community, called the White House plan "dead on arrival."

Benjy Sarlin at Talking Points Memo tries to get to the bottom of the disagreement:

Rubio has signed on to a bipartisan plan in the Senate that’s premised on the same broad planks as the White House’s 2011 and 2013 plans, often using identical language to describe them: a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, a crackdown on employers who hire future undocumented workers, additional border security measures, and a fix to the legal immigration system to bring in future workers. And since White House officials say they’ll only release their bill if Congress can’t pass one themselves, Rubio’s group — which Obama has showered with praise — is still the lead player in negotiations.

Of course, the devil is in the details, and that’s where Rubio’s been picking fights. In the biggest standoff, Rubio has insisted that his bill’s pathway to citizenship only kick in after a number of border security measures go into effect, an idea the White House is not too fond of. Immigrant rights groups are concerned about the trigger as well, but so long as the metrics are easily quantified and met, it’s not likely to be a dealbreaker since both sides are already planning to include a bunch of security measures in any bill (the leaked WH plan hires a bunch of border patrol agents).

The differences are even less defined on the other items Rubio attacked the White House over on Saturday: failing to include a plan for future immigrant labor in its leaked draft and backing a “special pathway” to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. That’s because Rubio and his Senate buddies haven’t come up with plans for these issues either. On the worker front, everyone’s waiting to see if labor and business groups can work out a compromise on how to deal with future immigration and then move from there. As for a “special pathway” to citizenship, Obama has used the same rhetoric as Rubio, repeatedly saying that undocumented immigrants would have to “go to the back of the line” behind legal immigrants who have already applied for a green card or citizenship. It was in his State of the Union address just this month.

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