Rubio lays out proposal to 'modernize' immigration
January 12th, 2013
01:31 PM ET
10 years ago

Rubio lays out proposal to 'modernize' immigration

(CNN) - Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, is laying out elements of his proposal to reform the immigration system, which he pitches as much-needed modernization for the outdated system.

Rubio, who was elected in 2010 to his first U.S. Senate term, told The Wall Street Journal in an interview published Saturday that his plan would include a permanent residency provision and a route to citizenship for those undocumented immigrants currently in the United States, but he stressed that the plan was “not blanket amnesty or a special pathway to citizenship.”

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The crux of his plan is to meet the country’s economic needs, including expanding the skilled workforce and supporting agriculture, which has relied on undocumented immigrants.

“I don't think that in the 21st century we can continue to have an immigration system where only 6.5% of people who come here, come here based on labor and skill,” he said in the interview. “We have to move toward merit and skill-based immigration."

Rubio has previously spoken out in favor of immigration reform and said last summer he was drafting a GOP alternative to the DREAM Act proposals, which would provide some form of legal status to young people who were brought into the U.S. illegally but who seek higher education or military service.

He put his plans on hold in June as President Barack Obama announced he would suspend deportations on many of these young adults. Critics dismissed it as a political move in an election year.

In a December interview on NBC, Obama said he would work on immigration in the first year of his second term.

“I've said that fixing our broken immigration system is a top priority. I will introduce legislation in the first year to get that done,” he said. “We can do it in a comprehensive way that the American people support. That's something we should get done.”

Rubio’s proposal comes ahead of specifics from the president, whom he says has “not done a thing” on the issue. Perhaps, he said, Obama would work with him on this issue because “maybe he's interested in his legacy.”

He supports increasing the caps for immigrants in both skilled and labor roles and allowing undocumented immigrants to “earn” a form of legal status. He also supports an e-verify database system which employers would be required to use to determine whether a potential hire is legally employable.

"Here's how I envision it," he told the Journal. "They would have to come forward. They would have to undergo a background check. … They would have to pay a fine, pay back taxes, maybe even do community service. They would have to prove they've been here for an extended period of time. They understand some English and are assimilated. Then most of them would get legal status and be allowed to stay in this country."

The system would not only crack down on illegal immigration, but he says it would also benefit undocumented workers. "When someone is [undocumented] they're vulnerable to being exploited."

Besides being a solution to the immigration issue, Rubio says it is politically beneficial to his party. Obama won an overwhelming percentage of Latino and other minority voters.

"The immigration issue is a gateway issue for Hispanics, no doubt about it,” he said. “No matter what your stance is on a number of other issues, if people somehow come to believe that you don't like them or want them here, it's difficult to get them to listen to anything else."

Filed under: Immigration • Marco Rubio
soundoff (148 Responses)
  1. jimmy

    These people do jobs most of us dont want to do.They get paid alot less then you and meFor there hard work we get lower prices on our food because it doesnt cost as much to pay there salarys and for there hard work we want to make them pay back taxes and charge them a fine well thats mighty white of you mr rubio did your cuban parents have to pay a fine to come here. I think this country would be alot better off if the tide took them back to cuba

    January 12, 2013 07:12 pm at 7:12 pm |
  2. Lynn

    Why not follow the laws we already have and send ILLEGALS home because they are illegal. While we are at it,
    it is past time to change the law that you are an automatic citizen if you are born here. I am totally fed up with paying
    for schooling and health care for illegals.

    January 12, 2013 07:13 pm at 7:13 pm |
  3. Matt Damon

    Rubio/Christie 2016!!!

    January 12, 2013 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  4. Consequence

    The only thing broken about our immigration law is our unwillingness to enforce it. The law is clear. Democrats and Republicans falling all over themselves to see who can impress illegal aliens the most is the most disgusting behavior I have ever seen on the part of our Federal Government. It is all about votes, power and influence in this country. That latino citizens of this country favor increased leniency toward illegal immigration as a quid pro quo for their political support is a travesty...and it is a greater travesty that we let them get away with it.

    January 12, 2013 07:32 pm at 7:32 pm |
  5. Ideas, Ideals, not ideologies

    Skilled immigrants will not come unless jobs are guaranteed. In other words, emplyers seeking to fill vacant positions would become the lynchpin of his plan. Right now, it's based on family relationships. One of the inevitable results of his plan would be lowered wages and more US born workers being unemployed since employers would be free to look for the cheapest worker from around the world.

    January 12, 2013 07:42 pm at 7:42 pm |
  6. Teron

    If am not mistaken, Countries that have continued to push for tougher immigration laws, have seen their economy decline. How is that related? Because immigrants are business driven, want to work and make life easy for people around them, buy or rent properties. Walk into any apartment complex, what do you see? Immigrant faces.

    January 12, 2013 07:44 pm at 7:44 pm |
  7. Evergreen

    A republican with an idea. It's about time.

    January 12, 2013 07:54 pm at 7:54 pm |
  8. dina

    Well, it appears he is already running for president.Pretty obvious.

    January 12, 2013 07:56 pm at 7:56 pm |
  9. Law

    In other bill shoplifters will be allowed to keep stolen items and allowed to steal couple of times a week, depending how many children they have.

    January 12, 2013 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  10. CBP

    Perhaps Sen.Rubio would like to be more willing to add his own party to the list of those who have done nothing for immigration. Senator Rubio needs to get others to work with him to forge new legislation. Instead of blaming the President why not work with him. Certainly the GOP has not done anything to work with the President. Even after his re-election the GOP is still sitting on their hands and we are letting them do that. How foolish we are and how sad we will be when nothing is done again.

    January 12, 2013 08:45 pm at 8:45 pm |
  11. Fuzzy Thinker

    "... if people somehow come to believe that you don't like's difficult to get them to listen to anything else..." YEP. The Latinos have said to Obama, with one voice: "You Owe Us". IF Obama acts like he did in the first term- Republicans have a second chance to woo the Latino Vote. Rubio is moving in the right direction. I want a realistic solution and I will support those who make it happen. I am one of the 20% Independents.

    January 12, 2013 09:05 pm at 9:05 pm |
  12. Patriot

    End the corrupt H-1b outsourcing visa!!

    January 12, 2013 09:18 pm at 9:18 pm |
  13. Bhola

    Who thinks about those 70k people waiting for years to gain residency legally? These people pay their taxes with due diligence , keep the economy moving, never cause law & order issues and serve this country like a respectable American would do. Yet whenever there is any discussion on immigration, they are never even mentioned.

    January 12, 2013 09:18 pm at 9:18 pm |
  14. Rina

    Boy if this isn't just a brazen attempt to court the hispanic vote. Rubio makes me sick!!! If Obama or the democrats put out the same proposal as he, the right would be spitting nails and hollering about how Obama panders to the illegals. Now you got Rubio saying the SAME thing – how pathetic. That's all right, though. The hispanics can see right thru your dirty tricks. They don't want to elect someone who talks AT them instead of WITH them. Good luck on the run for president, though. I'm sure you will get far -

    January 12, 2013 09:55 pm at 9:55 pm |
  15. Religious Guy

    This is very funny. For GOP, immigration reform is only for illegals. There are more than 300,000 legal aliens here in US who are waiting for permanent residency. They have been waiting for nearly 10 years for GC. The more we keep them wait, they will keep sending money earned from US to outside of US just because of the uncertainity of Green card. On an average, every year about $12,000 per legal Green Card applicant awaiting Green Card is sent out of US due to uncertainity. That amounts to about $3,600,000,000 ($3.6 Billion) being sent to some other country instead of being spent within US boosting US economy. Fix this legal immigration fiasco to prevent American money going to benefit some other country's economy instead of American economy. Provide faster Green Card path to the more than 300,000 legal aliens who have already applied for Green Card and are awaiting decision for past 7 years. We have already lost $21 Billion (7 years).

    January 12, 2013 10:26 pm at 10:26 pm |
  16. riightospeak

    First, the border needs to be closed to illigal immigration. Second,export of poverty from Mexico needs to be put on the table with the Mexican president-he needs to offer Mexican people better opportunities -not sweat shop jobs, "free trade" that put 2 M Mexican farmers out of work by subsidized corn. The prohibition of growing marijuana which makes the Al Capones in Mexico rich and is killing many needs to be stopped. The farmers there could provide protein from marijuana seeds,fibers for clothing in place of cotton. The Globalist agenda needs to be stopped -it destroys small economies : look at Greece, Spain.
    The problem with illigal immigration is not new and as long as oligarchs are getting rich on it ,it willl continue. In my view ,the illigal immigration needs to stop first, before action can be taken on the people already here. One can not blame the people-they want a better life. One needs to blame the leadership in both countries for creating this inhumane situation.

    January 12, 2013 10:59 pm at 10:59 pm |
  17. J.V.Hodgson

    As long as legislation only has a stick if you come forward that could get you deported for whatever reason then a huge majority of those illegals here now will not come forward.
    I do believe the electronic national database is the answer and I would make it simple as part of the JOB application process. Produce a certified copy of a birth certificate plus if you dont have that and are QED maybe a non US citizen then passport with valid visa and or Temporary work permit.
    If you cannot at least produce one those you are unemployable, on any basis even for daily labor services Like cutting lawns Small or large businesses breaking those simple rules are subject to large fines and simple thing like home address, name of nearest relative and address all the usual stuff on a job application form.
    Thar would lead to alot of self deportation because no work available and open up some unskilled jobs to unemployed Americans.
    On the political side I do not see legislation by whichever party ( or who ever) introduced changing the profile of immigrant workers from more likely to be democratic voters than Republican. It may sway a few to the Republican party but not so many.

    January 12, 2013 11:30 pm at 11:30 pm |
  18. Reagan80

    The biggest problem with Hispanic immigration is that when they come here they don't put an ocean between their new lives and their old ones. They have family and friends that they are not entirely cut off from and who have the same opportunity to saunter up here when they choose. The majority do not now, nor will they ever assimilate into our society like immigrants from all over Europe were able to do. Give them the vote and they will make demands that are increasingly against the best interests of those of us who were already here. And, the Democratic Party will give them anything they ask in return for their votes. The economic collapse that we're experiencing now was caused by the Democrats pandering to Blacks through the home mortgage market. The military's embrace of all things homosexual came from Democrats pandering to that constituency. The sell-out that Democrats will make to Hispanics will make the other sell-outs pale in comparison. But, it's probably too late to turn back now. The Democrat's alliance of minorities, unions, abortion fanatics, sexual perverts, and simple minded whites is indeed formidable.

    January 12, 2013 11:43 pm at 11:43 pm |
  19. crystal

    I don't see what's wrong with giving preference to immigrants who have actual skills and or college degrees. For our economy to grow at a faster, we need skilled workers who would actually contribute meaningful gains to our economy. That's what Canada, New Zealand, and Australia do, probably even more countries, They give preference to immigrants who have valuable skills. We need more Doctors, nurses, etc.

    January 12, 2013 11:45 pm at 11:45 pm |
  20. noteasilyswayed

    Use E-verify every time someone is hired, to verify their immigration status. Businesses that do not use E-verify and are caught paying people "under the table" and/or hiring illegals should have to pay heavy fines and the business owners/operators should be given prison sentences..... these steps would solve most of the immigration problems that we are having in today's world.

    January 13, 2013 12:10 am at 12:10 am |
  21. David

    The greatest gift on the planet is a path to American citizenship? Don't think so. lol
    I'm not American and never want to be. Sorry.

    January 13, 2013 12:40 am at 12:40 am |
  22. jack spitz

    The clown Rubio needs to make his policy proposals the same ones he supports that allows Cubans to come here, get green cards after a year and citzenship on an accelerated plan. He wants Cubans to continue getting special treatment including SSI, work permits, jobs in the public sector and numerous other benefits given to cubans ILLEGALS as well as legals. The clown is stupid to believe that his double standards are not going to be found out; he is one stupid gusano.

    January 13, 2013 12:58 am at 12:58 am |
  23. InLimbo

    Why is immigration reform done only for illegal people. Nothing is done for people who come here legally, work and pay taxes. Most Indians have to wait for 5-7 years just to get a green card and have to be at the edge of the seats to make sure they don't become out of status. Reforms need to be done for legal , skilled immigrants too!

    January 13, 2013 01:02 am at 1:02 am |
  24. Anonymous

    everyone in America except full blooded Indians came here as immigrants. were just not illegal because Indians didn't have laws because they knew they didn't own everything.

    January 13, 2013 01:10 am at 1:10 am |
  25. StylistGal

    What Rubio means by the 6.5% that come here based on labor and skill is that once a year immigration allows skilled people from many countries not just Mexico to come here and work, doctors, scientists, teachers etc... He is saying this law is outdated and the percentage needs to be increased.

    January 13, 2013 01:52 am at 1:52 am |
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