The White House has said Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s immigration plans, which could legalize the status of some of those unlawfully in the country, "bode well for a productive, bipartisan debate."
A reason for that optimism: Rubio’s ideas and comments closely mirror those of President Obama in a 2011 policy speech in El Paso Texas.
"This is the Rubio-Obama immigration plan," Mark Krikorian, head of the conservative Center for Immigration Studies, told Mother Jones.
"There’s nothing substantive in Rubio’s proposal that wouldn’t immediately be agreed to by President Obama," he said, noting that President George W. Bush proposed a similar plan in 2006 that many Congressional Republicans helped kill.
With the Republican Party far more opposed to immigration reform than Democrats, conservative commentators have praised Rubio for his boldness. But they’ve also glossed over the fact that Obama proposed similar ideas.
Not only do Rubio and Obama’s plans create a similar type of amnesty for the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants, the two politicians have used similar language.
Here’s Obama unveiling his plan in May 2011, relatively little-reported at the time:
"Those who are here illegally, they have a responsibility as well. So they broke the law, and that means they’ve got to pay their taxes, they’ve got to pay a fine, they’ve got to learn English. And they’ve got to undergo background checks and a lengthy process before they get in line for legalization. That’s not too much to ask."
Here’s Rubio in the Wall Street Journal on the undocumented:
"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."
Rubio doesn’t consider his plan a “blanket amnesty” because immigrants seeking legal residency would have to pay penalties. Many conservatives, however, describe any proposal as amnesty if it doesn’t require the immigrants to leave the country, known as “self deportation.”
Neither Obama nor Rubio have issued bills. So it’s unclear what the real specific policy differences would be on many of the finer details, although the two appear to disagree on the effectiveness and need for more border security.
Recent news reports say Obama now wants a "pathway to citizenship" for the undocumented. But details about the latest Obama plan are even scarcer than details of Rubio’s proposal.
Also, national reporters described Obama as seeking a "pathway to citizenship" in May 2011. But he never said that phrase in his speech or his written plan. Obama never specified what "legalization" is. Even if Obama has changed his mind, it’s a good indication the president and Rubio agree far more than they disagree about "legalization."
The two did have a disagreement regarding a pathway to citizenship vs. a pathway to legal residency regarding the proposed DREAM Act, which would allow those brought to this country as children to legally remain if they go to college or the military.
Obama wanted a pathway to citizenship. Rubio called for a residency pathway. Rubio shelved his plan, he says temporarily, after Obama used the framework of the Republican’s plan in an executive action that stopped deporting these young people.