More broadly, the president and Rubio share similar policies and rhetoric regarding the need for more farm workers.
Rubio in the Journal: ""The goal is to give American agriculture a reliable work force and to give protection to these workers as well."
Obama in May: "We need to provide our farms a legal way to hire workers that they rely on, and a path for those workers to earn legal status."
Both Rubio and Obama have said that businesses should be punished for knowingly hiring illegal immigrants. And they believe this protects lawful workers as well as the immigrants.
Rubio in the Journal: "When someone is [undocumented] they’re vulnerable to being exploited."
Obama in May: "Also, because undocumented immigrants live in the shadows... they’re vulnerable to unscrupulous businesses that skirt taxes, and pay workers less than the minimum wage, or cut corners with health and safety laws."
Both Rubio and Obama want more highly skilled immigration.
Rubio: "I don’t think that in the 21st century we can continue to have an immigration system where only 6.5% of people who come here, come here based on labor and skill. We have to move toward merit and skill-based immigration...I don’t think there’s a lot of concern in this country that we’ll somehow get overrun by Ph.D.s and entrepreneurs."
Obama: "Our existing policies provide limited avenues for talented and industrious individuals to work and reside in the U.S. For example, each year, we provide approximately 400,000 visas to foreign-born students seeking to enroll in U.S. colleges and universities, but then force them to leave the country to compete against us when they graduate. In addition, it is difficult for talented entrepreneurs who wish to start companies and create jobs in the U.S. to enter and remain in the country."
One obvious difference, at least regarding their rhetoric, appears to be the issue of border security. Rubio says more needs to be done.
Obama says his administration has and is doing enough. In May, he said that border enforcement increased on his watch while construction proceeded on a border fence (something that some in the crowd hated. He suggested opponents want to "move the goal posts" on border enforcement to delay real reform.
"They said we needed to triple the Border Patrol. Or now they’re going to say we need to quadruple the Border Patrol," he said. "Or they’ll want a higher fence. Maybe they’ll need a moat. Maybe they want alligators in the moat. They’ll never be satisfied. And I understand that. That’s politics."
The moat-and-alligators comment enraged Republicans at the time. They said rhetoric like that showed Obama was more interested in scoring political points and giving speeches. Indeed, after Obama released his plan, the White House largely stopped talking about it.
Now Obama is moving again on immigration reform but White House spokesman Jay Carney said Tuesday that the Republican senator’s plan was a good start.
Carney: "The reports about Senator Rubio’s ideas bode well for a productive, bipartisan debate, which we hope will start in earnest soon after the inauguration. We hope that it signals a change in the Republican approach to this issue, because if we are going to get this done, it’s going to take more than just a handful of Republicans working across the aisle. It’s a kind of thing, comprehensive immigration reform, that requires significant bipartisan support. And he hopes that this augers well for the future."
Why not? It’s pretty much what Obama asked for 20 months ago.