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out elements of his proposal to reform the immigration system, which he pitches as much-needed modernization for the outdated system.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. Alquimia

    I am a democrat, and I would vote for you Mr. Rubio!!

    January 13, 2013 02:29 am at 2:29 am |
  2. Yes, He Can

    Before anyone here criticizes Rubio, they should go on YouTube, watch him give a speech on immigration - there's a couple, one to the Hispanic Leadership Network (HLN) conference and one to NALEO, National Association of Latino Elected Officials and they should read his book, An American Son. I am a Republican and white and I support Rubio whether he runs for president or not. He is a principled person. If all he wanted to do was be elected president, this is not the issue he would choose, at is obvious by some of the comments here–he's probably going to make both sides unhappy by talking about it. He wants to do the right thing and get something done. Inform yourself before you make a comment.

    January 13, 2013 03:44 am at 3:44 am |
  3. griffbos

    Please all those posting kissing Mr Rubios ring, he and his party have opposed the very plan he no claims to be his own, the facts are this plan has been floating arund for over 4 years it was called amensty for all that time , but wait Mr Rubio with a R after his name suddenly supports it and it is no longer amensty. I have one question Mr Rubio since your plan is suppose to be skill/labor based does it call for the elimination of the speical Cuban immigration status your Miami base enjoys while it has opposed immgration for others?

    January 13, 2013 05:52 am at 5:52 am |
  4. Gerald West

    Republican politicians are forever referring to, and offering "elements" (i. e. objectives) to, non-existent plans. No one was better at it than Romney; he referred to scores of non-existent plans to save Social Security and Medicare, balance the federal budget, lower taxes, spend more on the military, and create 25 million jobs out of thin air.

    Rubio is an amateur in the game.

    January 13, 2013 06:51 am at 6:51 am |
  5. Anonymous

    i agree with rubio . make them citizens.

    January 13, 2013 07:06 am at 7:06 am |
  6. Sid AIrfoil

    If you want to complain that low-wage illegals are taking away "our" jobs, remember that if we deport them all, and give those jobs to "real" Americans, the price of everything you buy (particularly food) will go up, and the profit of every company that employs illegals will go down.


    January 13, 2013 07:22 am at 7:22 am |
  7. marjee123

    I know one proposal he would be against .....changing the 14th amendment you know the one about "anchor babies". He and Michell Mailken sure wouldn't like that.

    January 13, 2013 07:34 am at 7:34 am |
  8. Karin

    Our Borders are not secure. This should not even be discussed until the Borders are secure. We need to use E-verify and fine any Business that employees Illegals big fines and also have them pay for the airline ticket home for each Illegal they have employed. End Birthright Citizenship. Many Illegals come here to work under the table, Their women have multiple children in which the children qualify for the free stuff. Each child costs the taxpayer $15,000 a year just to educate never mind all the other free stuff they get. We can not keep granting them Amnesty or legal status, Reagan did this and he knew that was a Big mistake...We have about 24 more Million Illegals here,,,,We put our Americans on Welfare and bring cheap labor here for the Businesses to get rich while the taxpayers get stuck with higher taxes for more Americans on Welfare and now Illegals working under the table (so less taxes paid in to the government) Illegals use so many Social Services,,,,Hospitals,Prisons,Schools,,,etc...I worked in a High school that we taught ESL students...I had a family that the father brought his 6 Illegal kids with his wife and he also brought his Illegal mistress with the 6 kids he fathered with her,,,It cost $15,000 a year for each child...Yep $180,000 a year for just educating this Illegals man family ,,don't forget the food stamps,Health care etc,,,,,This has to stop...Illegals cost this Country over $383 Billion a year...never mind all of the Aemricans out of work that we have to pay for Welfare for them....HAve you noticed how much we have gone in debt since we have allowed this to Escalate

    January 13, 2013 07:43 am at 7:43 am |
  9. Pate F. Higs

    Nate, I think they ought to be free to stay like you did.

    January 13, 2013 08:03 am at 8:03 am |
  10. ThePundit....

    TO: Robert Warner – So what your saying pertains to all politicians? Democratic Hierarchy is guilty of this right now? If your statement is for both sides of the fence...then I applaud your ethics. I give Rubio some credit, for at least trying to make a difference, regardless of the media hype.

    January 13, 2013 08:19 am at 8:19 am |
  11. Dontbow

    They rape and pillage the country and you want to give them legal status instead of holding them to the LAWS of this country. Not only is that so weak and foolish, it is an insult to legal American citizens.

    January 13, 2013 08:22 am at 8:22 am |
  12. Sagebrush Shorty

    Instead of floating this plan he should sink it. Preferably in the Rio Grande.

    January 13, 2013 08:27 am at 8:27 am |
  13. Stephen

    Okay, I'm willing to accept one Republican who says he wants to work with Democrats. Even if he is just co-opting their platform, at least he appears to be trying. Let's see where it goes.

    January 13, 2013 08:59 am at 8:59 am |
  14. mb

    Obama and Rubio if either one of you want to get to the bottom of this problem you need to come up with some kind of major penatilty for these employers that are exploiting these workers on a daily basis. I agree the majority of them are honest hard working people. But when they don't know or understand our labor laws, or OSHA safety laws it hurts every worker out there. I see it all the time these people are paid very low wages, and put in very dangerous situations because they don't know about job safety.

    January 13, 2013 09:05 am at 9:05 am |
  15. Robert McCabe

    We the people overwhelmingly want all illegals deported.

    January 13, 2013 09:09 am at 9:09 am |
  16. WCharlton

    Marco Rubio is an opportunist. He doesnt care about hispnics because he makes every effort to distance himself from the community. Did anyone notice his family? His wife doesn't look very cuban to me. This is just rhetoric and he's trying desparately to win hispanic votes. Notice that even his republican party realized he carried no weight with the hispanic community and never really promoted it in an effort to win hispanic votes.

    January 13, 2013 09:16 am at 9:16 am |
  17. Don't blame me, I'm Obama!

    Al, I agree with u that any for of amnesty is disgusting but in order to compete in our entitlement society, seems repubs are embracing what got Obama elected... VOTE FOR ME, IT'S FREE!!!)

    January 13, 2013 09:24 am at 9:24 am |
  18. Larry L


    They rape and pillage the country and you want to give them legal status instead of holding them to the LAWS of this country. Not only is that so weak and foolish, it is an insult to legal American citizens.
    Rape and pillage? Really? Don't be a drama queen. Most of the American fruit you eat was picked by an undocumented immigrant and if you're in a home made of brick or stone most likely they built that part of it. They are the maids cleaning our toilets and the yardmen doing our rich people's landscaping. A good portion of the meat we eat is processed by these folks because the average American is too lazy to do such back-breaking work. They want a better life for their families and unless you're 100% Native American, it's why your ancestors came to America.

    January 13, 2013 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  19. Peter

    The politicians are not there to do what is right, they just need to solidify their vote banks.
    The Dems and Repubs should first fix the legal immigration. Why are they holding the HR 3012 bill? It is a fairness bill for legal immigration. Right now, if you are from Pakistan, you case is approved in 2 months while if you are from China, it takes 10 years. US is not a quota based country, it is a talent based country. Make immigration a talent and resource specific.

    January 13, 2013 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
  20. Jesse

    Wow.... what an awesomely original plan! Except, I've read about this plan for at least 3 years. The very party that he hopes will benefit from the goodwill generated by this immigration plan has unilaterally rejected it in the past. Let's get real.... the majority of people coming into this country do not want public assistance... that's already being exploited by those living here. They want to work. And work hard... in jobs that you and I turn away from. Let's come up with a program that let's people who want to work... work. Democrats don't have to come up with the solution.... Republicans don't have to come up with it... Just come up with it! As a proud son of someone who came over undocumented.... worked continuously to provide for his family... and became an American Citizen... I know the process can work.

    January 13, 2013 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  21. Anonymous

    Rubio is an opportunist. He did not vote for the fiscal cliff deal with majority of his Republican senators for majority of Americans to get the tax cut. Instead he calculated his move to win conservative's nod for the primary of 2016.

    January 13, 2013 10:09 am at 10:09 am |
  22. NMEast

    An illegal alien should NEVER be given the chance to become a citizen! Give them permanent residency; any child born to their family should not be considered an American citizen. The child could be allowed to apply for citizenship when it turns 18, but the parents, NEVER. Why reward law breakers with anything? If you do, why would ANYONE bother to immigrate to the U.S. legally? Look at the immigration laws of the country of the illegal alien. Do they reward law breakers with citizenship? NO!!! Most will throw you in jail for years, if not shoot you outright.

    January 13, 2013 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  23. Ron

    If an immigrant from Senator's Rubio or Cruz ancestoral country Cuba steps foot on American soil they are welcomed with open arms, They are encouraged to and assisted in pursuing the American dream. If an immigrant from Mexico or Central America steps foot in our country we spends millions of dollars tracking them down, imprisoning them, and deporting them. We need a fair immigration policy, and hopefully these two senators will take the lead.

    January 13, 2013 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  24. ED FL

    Well Mr. Rubio we Floridans would like to know when and how you reimbursed the State of Florida for approximately $95,000 when you were house speaker . Before you get your Grandious ideas of running Nationally you better get your Florida problems and Personal Problems in order.Your personal background is still out there for a closer scrutiny then you would like the general public to know. There isn't enopugh Cuban citizens to get you anywhere in a nationl open election . Live it up while you can ,you are goig to have to have some answers to move further up the political ladder.

    January 13, 2013 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  25. jim

    if you listen to what anti-gun people are saying –
    they would make it harder for a US citizen to legally buy and own a gun than it would be for a illegal immigrant to apply for and get free heath-care, food-stamps, welfare, education, and they can still stay here even if they commit non-violent crimes
    I think owning a gun is a good idea

    January 13, 2013 10:55 am at 10:55 am |
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