Shortly after USA Today obtained the first draft of the Obama administration's immigration reform plan, the office of Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) has, in a press release, expressed its opposition to the plan.
The statement describe the bill as "half-baked and seriously flawed," and that if proposed "it would be dead on arrival in Congress."
Politico reports that the statement from the office begins: “It’s a mistake for the White House to draft immigration legislation without seeking input from Republican members of Congress."
According to USA Today, Rubio said the bill only repeats the failures of previous legislation. He said: "It fails to follow through on previously broken promises to secure our borders, (and) creates a special pathway that puts those who broke our immigration laws at an advantage over those who chose to do things the right way and come here legally. It would actually make our immigration problems worse."
USA Today said it obtained the draft from a White House official who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to release it.
The draft of the immigration proposal allows illegal immigrants to become legal permanent residents within eight years. The plan provides for increased security funding and requires that business owners check the immigration status of new employees within four years.
The plan allows illegal immigrants to apply for a new "Lawful Prospective Immigrant" visa.
The draft bill states that immigrants would be required to pass a criminal background check, provide biometric information and pay prescribed fees to qualify for the new visa. If the visa is approved, they will be allowed to reside legally for four years, after which they could reapply for an extension.
It disqualifies immigrants convicted of a crime "that led to a prison term of at least one year, three or more different crimes that resulted in a total of 90 days in jail," and in the case of crimes committed outside the US "if committed in the United States would render the alien inadmissible or removable from the United States."
USA Today reports that immigrants in federal custody or those facing deportation proceedings could also apply for the Lawful Prospective Immigrant visa. The draft says application forms and instructions would be provided in "the most common languages spoken by persons in the United States," but the application and all supporting evidence submitted would have to be in English.
After the immigrants have received a new immigration card as proof of their legal status in the country, they could then apply for legal permanent residence ("green card") within eight years if they learn English, "the history and government of the United States," and pay back taxes.
That could then later apply for U.S. citizenship.
According to The Huffington Post, Rubio's statement faulted the bill for not proposing strict measures for border security and not rewarding "those who chose to do things the right way and come here legally" over "those who broke our immigration laws."
The Huffington Post comments that Rubio has shown interest in immigration reform only recently, in the effort to lead the Republican Party in an issue it considers crucial after its poor performance among Latino voters in the last general elections. He is enjoying growing support for his plan, which proposes tighter border controls as well as a long path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
Rubio is a member of the "gang of 8," a group in the Senate that is drafting their own proposals as alternative to the Obama administration's. A number of other groups in both chambers of the Senate are drafting their own bills.
Meanwhile, Obama has said that if Congress does not to act quickly, he will offer up his bill for a vote. Two weeks ago, Obama warned that he would not wait too long for Congress to act. He said: "If Congress is unable to move forward in a timely fashion, I will send up a bill based on my proposal and insist that they vote on it right away."
Politico reports that White House spokesman Clark Stevens, said on Saturday that the White House supports the ongoing bipartisan efforts. According to The Hill, Stevens said: "The president has made clear the principles upon which he believes any common-sense immigration reform effort should be based. We continue to work in support of a bipartisan effort, and while the president has made clear he will move forward if Congress fails to act, progress continues to be made and the administration has not prepared a final bill to submit."
Miami Herald provides the full text of Rubio's press release
“It’s a mistake for the White House to draft immigration legislation without seeking input from Republican members of Congress. President Obama’s leaked immigration proposal is disappointing to those of us working on a serious solution. The President’s bill repeats the failures of past legislation. It fails to follow through on previously broken promises to secure our borders, creates a special pathway that puts those who broke our immigration laws at an advantage over those who chose to do things the right way and come here legally, and does nothing to address guest workers or future flow, which serious immigration experts agree is critical to preventing future influxes of illegal immigrants.
“Much like the President’s self-described ‘stop gap’ Deferred Action measure last year, this legislation is half-baked and seriously flawed. It would actually make our immigration problems worse, and would further undermine the American people’s confidence in Washington’s ability to enforce our immigration laws and reform our broken immigration system.
“If actually proposed, the President’s bill would be dead on arrival in Congress, leaving us with unsecured borders and a broken legal immigration system for years to come.”