Rubio Outlines Bold Plan Giving 12 Million Illegals Legal Status

Sandy Fitzgerald, Newsmax, January 13, 2013

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio is developing a wide-ranging immigration reform plan—including steps to give more than 12 million illegals currently in the U.S. legal status—in an effort to seize the initiative on a contentious issue that polls show is hurting the Republican Party with the nation’s rapidly growing Hispanic population.

Rubio laid out the broad outline of his plan in an interview with the weekend edition of the Wall Street Journal, at the same time President Obama announced he would push a comprehensive immigration plan of his own this March.

Surprisingly, both hold similar goals—creating a process in which undocumented workers in the U.S. can gain status and at the same time create a potential path to citizenship at some point in the future.

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Republican lawmakers have told Newsmax that Rubio’s plan could pass muster, even with immigration hardliners, if the plan included a significant restitution for illegals to pay and began taxing them for their work here.

Critically, Republicans want to ensure newly documented workers don’t get citizenship too soon, with many advocating a minimum 10-year window before newly legal residents could acquire citizenship.

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Rubio, in his interview, made clear that his Republican plan differs from the president’s in its phased approach. He argues it should create a series of legislative bills on immigration reform rather than one omnibus bill envisioned by the president.

The Florida Republican, one of the nation’s best-known Hispanic leaders and an oft-mentioned candidate for president in 2016, is preparing the first such bill, one that will provide legal status specifically for young illegal immigrants, known as Dreamers, who came to the United States as children.

Rubio’s plan also will include penalties for those already in the country, but notably doesn’t call for tougher border enforcement because he believes the sweeping reforms will deter future waves of illegals from landing on America’s shores.

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Rubio, however, told reporters last week that the piecemeal approach was “not a line in the sand” for him.

He does, however, demand that any legalization measure should not be unfair to immigrants who played by the rules and applied to become residents through legal channels.

Specifically, Rubio’s proposals would allow illegal immigrants to gain temporary status so they could remain in the country and work, according to the Times. Then they would be sent to the back of the line in the existing system to apply to become permanent residents, and eventually citizenship.

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The Wall Street Journal revealed other key parts of Rubio’s plan:

  • Some 12 million illegals residing in the U.S. could begin the process of becoming legal by identifying themselves to federal authorities and being fingerprinted. If they have not committed any crime, demonstrate that they have been in the U.S. for a while, and then pay a fine and taxes, they could enter a “limbo status,” Rubio said. “Assuming they haven’t violated any of the conditions of that status,” newly documented workers can apply for permanent residency and potentially citizenship, he added.

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  • A weakening of the family reunification aspects of current immigration law. “I’m a big believer in family-based immigration,” he says. “But I don’t think that in the 21st Century we can continue to have an immigration system where only 6.5 percent of people who come here, come here based on labor and skill. We have to move toward merit and skill-based immigration.”
  • A guest-worker program to help meet the needs of American growers. Most of the 1.6 million agricultural laborers in the United States are illegal immigrants, and Rubio noted American produce could not be picked without them. He wants the country to have a number of visas that are provided through a guest-worker program that is sufficient to address growers’ needs for pickers. “The goal is to give American agriculture a reliable work force and to give protection to these workers as well,” Rubio told the Journal. “When someone is [undocumented] they’re vulnerable to being exploited.” {snip}

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