Much of the immigration proposal resembles language from the 2007 comprehensive immigration reform plan that died in Congress. So there’s not much new.
Still, the proposal gives a glimpse of what the White House sees as important.
And the proposals that have surfaced so far don’t go far enough for Rubio when it comes to border security.
Since and before his election to the U.S. Senate in 2010, Rubio has said the United States needs to make the border more secure. He has called for more fences, remote-control drones and border agents.
Under a plan pushed by Rubio, illegal immigrants wouldn’t get a chance at getting a green card until an advisory group verified that the border is secure. How that would be determined is unclear.
But Rubio and his fellow senators plan to release specifics in the coming weeks when they unveil their legislation.
The legislation would also clarify how undocumented immigrants get legal status — or become a “Lawful Prospective Immigrant” in the White House legislation — and when they can apply for citizenship.
Both Obama and Rubio generally believe in a pathway to citizenship for the undocumented and say they should submit to criminal background checks, pay fines, back taxes and learn English.
The White House bill also says the Lawful Prospective Immigrant must give “biometric” information and should show an “understanding of the history and Government of the United States.”
Rubio’s decision to support a pathway to citizenship stands in stark contrast to his rhetoric on the campaign trail.
In a May, 2010 interview with the conservative “Human Events” publication, Rubio said giving a pathway to citizenship undermines border security.
“You’re never going to be able to do that,” he said, “if you have an immigration system that says ‘come to this country illegally. If you’re able to stay here long enough, you’re able to stay here forever.’ And you’re never going to have a legal immigration system that works if you grant amnesty.”
Later, in a CNN debate, Rubio said that “earned path to citizenship is basically code for amnesty.”
One of the White House draft bills calls for an unspecified increase in Border Patrol agents and technological assets used to monitor border security.
Still, the White House legislation subtly takes issue with the Republican concern that the border isn’t secure. In the draft labeled “Title I Border Interior Enforcement,” the legislation lists about three pages of border-security stats printed as Congressional findings of fact.
The first finding: “Today, our borders are more secure than at any time in history.”
Aside from the emphasis on border security, there appears to be relatively little in the White House draft proposals that conflicts with what Rubio wants.
Though The Herald obtained three pieces of draft legislation ranging from 45 to 95 pages each, White House officials are preparing other drafts in case the Senate fails. Some of the documents also include language the White House wouldn’t push for, such as allowing so-called “chain migration,” which could permit a once-undocumented immigrant to bring family members lawfully into the United States.
Some of the measures in the current drafts would:
* Establish border-patrol “community liaison offices” along the southern and the northern borders.
* Make Indian tribes “adversely affected by illegal immigration” eligible for grants.
* Collect statistics relating to border-crossing deaths
* Increase fines and prison sentences for those who evade border-enforcement officers, commit immigration fraud or smuggle anything from drugs to people to cash.
* Require employers to check the immigration status of employees.
* Study the new system to verify immigration employment
* Increase the number of immigration judges
* Begin the issuance of “fraud-resistant, tamper-resistant, and wear-resistant Social Security cards.”
* Give “temporary protection for victims of crime, labor and employment violations” so that illegal immigrants can help law enforcement.
* Establish new fees to pay for the legalization of the undocumented
U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia, a Democrat from Miami, said the president’s proposal is “a good place to start. It encompasses everything Rubio’s talking about. Except it has Obama’s name on it.”
“It’s part of what’s wrong with Washington,” Garcia said. “There’s this whole construct: if it’s theirs, I can’t support it. If Obama’s behind it, Republicans are against it.”