Rubio shows backbone in his contributions to ‘Gang of Eight’ immigration overhaul
F or Marco Rubio, the hard work starts now.
Earlier this week, the Republican senator from Florida, along with an unlikely band of seven other senators, unveiled the long-awaited details of a new federal immigration plan, one that is big, complicated and controversial.
There are 1,001 reasons why the Gang of Eight immigration overhaul will fail, leaving in place the current system of de facto amnesty, in which 11 million illegal immigrants make up a sort of permanent underclass, illegal but never deported, in the shadows of the American Dream. But there is one reason that immigration reform has a fighting chance: Rubio. This week he led an all-in public relations effort to shore up support for the plan.
It’s one thing for Rubio to put his name on a bill that could cost him a certain nomination for a certain high office. But Rubio didn’t just sign on to the bill and then sign off, hiding at an undisclosed location. In for a penny, in for all the gold in Fort Knox, Rubio has decided to carry this hot potato and run with it — immense political risk be damned. The bucketful of backbone he has shown on this issue is the stuff of “Profiles in Courage.”
Key elements of the Gang of Eight’s plan are:
✓ $3 billion in increased resources for manpower, machines and fences focused on hotspots for illegal border crossings;
✓ new requirements that border enforcement personnel leverage existing and new funding resources to ensure 90 percent success in apprehending illegal border crossers;
✓ a requirement that E-Verify, the gold standard of workplace enforcement that conservatives have long demanded, be fully implemented nationally;
✓ a process for granting temporary legal status to illegal residents after, in the words of Rubio, they “submit to and pass background checks, be fingerprinted, pay fines, pay taxes, prove gainful employment, go to the back of the line and prove they have had a physical presence in the U.S. since before 2012”;
✓ and a 13-year procedure for those gaining temporary legal status to apply for citizenship.
Now, let’s not mince words or bury the lead. While the beefed-up enforcement measures are pivotal to the overall policy (one border enforcement expert called Rubio’s enforcement provisions the toughest border enforcement measures in the history of the country), the true political fight centers first, last and always on provisions in the bill that create a path to legalization and ultimately citizenship for this country’s illegal immigrants.
No secret, a path to citizenship has been anathema to virtually all Republicans for a generation. More than a few conservative commentators have hammered Rubio on it.
On Sunday a telling exchange took place between Rubio and the GOP’s other upstart Hispanic U.S. senator, Ted Cruz, R.-Texas. Cruz is among the vociferous opponents of the bill.
On ABC News’ “This Week,” Rubio argued that the 13-year gauntlet that stands between illegal immigrants and citizenship is actually more arduous and expensive than the current system.
“The existing law allows people that are here illegally to gain access to citizenship,” Rubio said. “What (current law) says is you have to go back to your country of birth and you have to wait 10 years, and then you can apply for it. All we’ve done (in the Gang of Eight bill) is create an alternative … (which) is going to be longer, more expensive and more difficult to navigate. It will actually be cheaper if they went back home, waited 10 years and applied for a green card.”
Unsatisfied, Cruz shot back at Rubio. He wanted to know if the Gang of Eight approach is actually more expensive and difficult than the current law, why is it necessary? Why not force illegal immigrants to return to their homes in order to gain legal status?
An obvious answer: For a large number of illegal immigrants who have built their homes and families in this country, leaving the U.S. to apply for citizenship means leaving their homes and tearing apart their families. Is that consideration worth nothing? Let’s hope not.
If, as Rubio argues, we can create a rigorous process that forces those here illegally to prove they are working and to pay for their original crime without splitting up homes and families, why wouldn’t we? For a party committed to family, the answer should also be obvious. Now it is up to Marco Rubio to do the convincing.
Josh Penry is a former minority leader of the Colorado Senate. He is a graduate of Grand Junction High School and Mesa State College.