The Senate legislation, whenever it’s drafted, will also spell out: how the visa process would be streamlined, what new types of work permits would be available, how the government plans to stop businesses from hiring illegal immigrants, how long people would wait for citizenship, how the border is declared secure, and roughly how much it would all cost.
Parts of the proposal sound expensive: More radio and drone surveillance, better real-time computer tracking of immigrants to ensure they don’t overstay visas, a new employment-verification system and continued construction of a border fence.
The senators have been meeting since the November elections, but only this month did details emerge as Rubio became a leading voice for the effort, especially in conservative circles where he holds sway.
This effort, whether it succeeds or not, is a milestone in Rubio’s 2-year-old Senate career. It keeps Rubio, a GOP frontrunner for president in 2016, at the center of the political action.
Rubio, a Cuban-American son of immigrants, is his party’s most high-profile Hispanic and grew up and lives in one of the nation’s largest melting pots, Miami-Dade County.
“I live surrounded by immigrants,” Rubio said. “My neighbors are immigrants. My family’s immigrant. I married into a family of immigrants.”
Not all the conservative reaction to Rubio and the proposal is positive, however.
Commentator Mickey Kaus bashed the “Rubio bill” on Twitter because the “undocumented are legalized immediately! Not going to be kicked out if enforcement’s degraded.”
In an editorial headlined “The Rubio Con,” Kaus said he awaits “further details on this festival of legislative gimmickry, but on first glance it certainly looks like a cynical effort designed to allow Hispanicked Republicans to seem tough while voting for amnesty: Look at all those drones! Yes, the undocumented will be able to legally steal your job — but, hey, they won’t get to vote!”
Rubio’s office said the senator expects pushback from the right as well as the left. Liberal-leaning unions have fought against guest-worker programs such as the one the Gang of Eight proposed. The AFL-CIO, however, told The Washington Post that it supports this effort along with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Liberal immigration advocates also want a faster pathway to citizenship.
The Gang of Eight senators includes Republicans Rubio, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Arizona’s McCain and Jeff Flake. The Democrats: Schumer, Illinois’ Richard Durbin, Colorado’s Michael Bennett and New Jersey’s Bob Menendez. The fact that both of border-state Arizona’s Republican senators crafted the proposal could bolster the package’s credibility on Capitol Hill.
Obama is “delighted” with the Gang of Eight’s work, Schumer said. The president plans to speak Tuesday in Nevada about immigration, and told some members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus last week that the issue is a top priority. Obama wants to make good on his promise to fix the immigration system.
However, Obama has chafed at the notion that his administration isn’t doing enough to secure the border. Deportations were up as are the number of border patrol agents under Obama, who is also continuing work on a barrier and fence that stretch for nearly 700 of the 2,000 miles of U.S.-Mexico border.