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out elements of his proposal to reform the immigration system, which he pitches as much-needed modernization for the outdated system.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

    Mr. Rubio's friends (The Tea Party) will tar and feather him for speaking this way.

    January 13, 2013 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  2. jm

    Marco wants some spotlight, he let on when he talks about Obama's legacy. Marco wants a legacy and that is his interest in this matter. The GOP has him convinced he is the future, but he is just another conservative obssessed with forcing women to birth babies, like the rest of them,

    January 13, 2013 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  3. beachgalone

    i like Rubio. I live in Florida and I understand the pressure these politicians have. Both parties are "opportunists". They want to win. But I've always liked to hear what he has to say. I hope the "system" doesn't screw him up. He's a good guy.
    I'm independent and would like to see more politicians in the "center". Way left and way right is way wrong.

    January 13, 2013 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  4. frank_Too

    Marco Rubio's immigration plan is naive and doomed to failure.

    The desire to select the better-qualified and better-educated immigrants stems from noble intentions, but does not interface with our nation’s labor requirements. Yes, we do need highly skilled and educated immigrants, but also have a large and continually growing need for unskilled and semi-skilled labor. These workers cannot “stand in line and wait their turn like everyone else to get a green card”. There is no line for them. “...low-skilled workers, as a practical matter, do not have an avenue for lawful immigration to the United States, either temporarily or permanently.” (Enid Trucios-Haynes, Civil Rights, Latinos, and Immigration: Cybercascades and Other Distortions in the Immigration Reform Debate.)

    The bottom line is that non-citizens of limited economic means, especially from the developing world, under Rubio's plan, will still not be able legally enter the United States. Ergo, we will continue to get illegal immigrants to fill the un-skilled worker needs in the U.S.

    January 13, 2013 11:17 am at 11:17 am |
  5. CJ

    This is a never ending problem and will never end, why? Because our government (both sides) are the problem...this could have been taken care of a long time ago...both sides are getting "something" for looking the other way...BOTH SIDES!!! They are worse criminals than the so called criminals that are coming to this country...until we rid our country of this sesspool government...things will never change..and this will continue to drain our country till its dead!!!

    January 13, 2013 11:20 am at 11:20 am |
  6. NMEast

    frank_Too: You are wrong. There is a LEGAL way immigrants can come on a temporary basis – it's called the H1A&B visas. Agricultural businesses, farms, ranches, etc. can bring in immigrants to do temporary work, like farming, working cattle, etc. They just don't want to BECAUSE, they would be required to pay a minimum wage, provide housing -whether their own, or arranged; provide basic health care and MAKE SURE THE IMMIGRANT LEAVES THE COUNTRY when the work is completed. At no time should an illegal alien be given citizenship in this country. I might be able to stomach permanent residency for these people, but their children should not be considered American citizens, even if born here, until that child applies for citizenship at 18. The law breaking parents SHOULD NEVER BE GIVEN CITIZENSHIP. Any of them given permanent residency MUST pay a fine, equal to the total amount of income taxes, social security taxes and medicaid/medicare taxes they would have paid, both state and federal for the time they have been in the U.S. No waivers, no extensions, no exemptions. If you can't pay it, you will be deported. Breaking up families is not a concern. Take your family with you.

    January 13, 2013 11:32 am at 11:32 am |
  7. F.Daniel Gray

    Well, Larry L ("unless you're 100% Native American, it's why your ancestors came to America.": "..average American is too lazy.."), you've barely got it half right.

    First: There is no such person as a "Native American." That appellation is little better than the the racist term, "Indian." When the ignorant Europeans came to this "continent," the First Nations peoples (the term now adopted by Canada, due to pressure from the Inuit people, which is more historically accurate) had been here for 15,000 years. there was no "America." And, they continue to be the most oppressed people on the continent.

    Second: One part of my ancestral heritage, "black," make up about 15 per cent of the present US population. Though kidnapped, and brought here to work for free as slaves, helped build the economic foundation which became the economic behemoth, USA. We are still regarded as inferiors, but not as much as the First Nations peoples.

    Third: Corporate America decides who works and who gets paid what in our nation. Its overseas operations have undermined the economies of most of Latin America, for centuries, which is why its citizenry head for El Norte, in desperation. Willing to forego the few benefits of minimum wage, social security, safety standards, etc. guaranteed to citizens. All those jobs were previously done, mostly by "white" persons, who realize it is virtually impossible to survive on the substandard wages offered by corporate America. Much of it is "subcontracted," wherein the corporate business takes no responsibility for the hiring practices.

    January 13, 2013 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  8. Pete

    Rubio makes an invalid case because under government policies employers get a better tax break hiring immigrents than disabled veterans its fact!!Employers under the WOTC policy get an $8000 break compared to only roughly $4000 for a disabled vet and if that isn't discrimination against our vets nothing is...Plus vets are easier to train because there's no language barrier the immigrents have and vets are eager to get back into the mainstream something immigrents never felt being new to our society..And Rubio never explained too how immigrents get vouchers if they stay here for housing ,food,medical,etc something most vets you know have to fight for, just ask a vet from the Vietnam era how he's fought for everything its pathedic how they were treated...Rubios immigrent parents got more in vouchers than most naturalized Americans who are just down on their luck have gotten.And fraud in Medicare,Medicaid is rampant in Dade,Broward counties in Florida because of the abuse the immigrents that came here have been able to get away with..Just check your medical,auto and other insurance premiums in these two counties how they've skyrocketed in just the last 10 years because of immigrents abuse its fact something Scott the governor of Florida or anyone in government really wants to speak about ,the bad side of immigration ,the dirtier ,silent part that plagues us!!

    January 13, 2013 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  9. Galactus9333

    Its a terrible idea to reward illegal aliens with a pathway to citizenship or even alllow them to stay in the United States. We tried Amnesty in 1986 for 3 million illegal aliens and we now have 12 million illegal aliens. Enforcement is the only answer to this problem. Immigration Reform should provide resources needed to deport the 12 million illegal aliens and make E-Verify both Mandatory and Retro-active. We should require all businesses in the United States to review their employees and fire the illegal aliens. We need to make it impossible for illegal aliens to get or keep a job in the United States.

    January 13, 2013 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  10. Joe Murphy

    Immigration is a labor issue. We have 8% unemployment in the US and the same poverty rate as Mexico. We don't need any more unskilled labor. The only that needs to be modernized is our enforcement.

    January 13, 2013 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  11. trex

    .............I cant wait to hear this speech at the gop National Convention, and those Ttards reaction. I never heard complete SILENCE AT ONE OF THOSE gop LOVE INS.............................

    January 13, 2013 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  12. more-same-lame-duckquack...

    Wahington needs to get real and bind the Nation as "One" only then can anything move "Forward"

    January 13, 2013 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  13. Marc Stevens

    Hey Marcos, since you represents the state of Florida I am going to give you the 1st step:

    Deport all the Cubans that are granted citizenship by only touching land here. Lets see if your contituents are going to love your proposal based on economic needs.

    January 13, 2013 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  14. Publius Novus

    Sen. Rubio better make hay while the sun shines. He "won" his seat by a plurality in a three-way race when most voters stayed home. Next time it may well be Charlie Crist in a two-way. I think Crist wins that one.

    January 13, 2013 01:22 pm at 1:22 pm |
  15. right

    in the same bill he will introduce shoplifting is legal for people with kids

    January 13, 2013 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  16. Ali

    Most illegal aliens do NOT work in agriculture, but under stolen SS numbers alongside Americans doing jobs Americans clearly are doing and will do when they can get them. Fact is, if farmers really need workers to do the work Americans supposedly won't do, we have the H2-A guest worker program that lets them bring in an UNLMITED number of seasonal agricultural guest workers. But farmers prefer to hire illegal aliens since they're cheaper and farmers don't need to follow rules or provide transportation, etc.

    January 13, 2013 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  17. BobinCO

    No thanks, you lying opportunist.

    January 13, 2013 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  18. Ali

    frank_too, the US admits 1.1 million LEGAL immigrants each year, most of them under "family reunficiation". 15-20% of these immigrants come from Mexico and 50% or so are from Latin America. These immigrants are also unskilled uneducated WORKERS.

    And while this economy is indeed creating lots of jobs for unskilled and semi-skilled workers, there are lots of Americans who need those jobs. Assuming we did want to admit more unskilled workers, as a practical matter, just how would one determine which "unskilled" workers we admit since by definition, there is nothing to distinguish one such worker from another? Such a program would be subject to corruption–bribery to get an employer to sponsor someone. And then there's the little issue of who would get visas. A skilled worker could easily pretend to lack skills in order to get an easier route to the US. This happened in one ag program on the Eastern Shore about 10 years ago–unskilled workers brought in to work picking crabs got green cards and moved on to better jobs. It turned out that skilled workers had pretended to be unskilled in order to get in on the program.

    January 13, 2013 01:35 pm at 1:35 pm |
  19. Karen

    The whole issue about immigration really overlaps three big areas and we cannot solve it until we ask some tough questions–These 3 overlap areas are; political,economic and moral– the law in US will always follow economic power brokersrather than economic capital following the law; we need to ask -what does it mean to be 'american'? Who is my neighbor? How do we engage as US citizens with this failed ideology?

    January 13, 2013 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  20. Jamie P

    I have a path to immigration for them – ship them out, let them apply for entrance, legally. If they come back illegally, locked them up and put them on a chain gang fixing our roads for 5 years, then then depart and they can reapply.

    January 13, 2013 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  21. Cam Spurgeon

    I live in Florida and you all need to check out this guy and his voting record. He is an obstructionist pure and simple. He does not take phone calls and his mailbox is always full. He takes his orders from the tea party and John McCain. He never crosses the line to work on a bipartisan basis.People need to look at how he will vote on the next Florida disaster. He voted no on Sandy hurricane. He is in it for himself not his ste, country or President. Won't say how he feels about sensible gun legislation until somebody tells him how he needs to feel. He is a bad one and he cant be voted out for four more years. Just my opinion. but check his voting record.

    January 13, 2013 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  22. Karen/ Baltimore

    The whole issue about immigration really overlaps three big areas and we cannot solve it until we devise some answers to tough questions in all three areas–These 3 overlapping areas are; political, economic and moral– the law in US will always follow economic power brokers rather than economic capital following the foundations of law; we need to ask -what does it mean to be 'american'? Who is my neighbor? How do we"fix" ideology? citizens citizens with this failed ideology?

    January 13, 2013 01:54 pm at 1:54 pm |
  23. Karen/ Baltimore

    The whole issue about immigration really overlaps three big areas and we cannot solve it until we devise some answers to tough questions in all three areas–These 3 overlapping areas are political, economic, and moral– the law in US always follow economic power brokers rather than economic capital following the foundations of law; we need to ask -what does it mean to be 'american'? Who is my neighbor? How do we"fix" ideology? citizens citizens with this failed ideology?

    January 13, 2013 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  24. R1983

    Rubio, will never be President of these United States, he came out of the Tea Party and no way he will get elected. It will
    be a long time before the GOP win another election. The Blacks, Latino, asian, women, and young people are not going
    to vote for them. When 2016 election come around if 30% of White vote DEM that will be enough for them to win.
    Rubio came from Florida, you see President Obama won a lots of the Cuban votes. He is a very good looking guy
    but that not going to help him get votes. I don't think he will get elected to the Senate again. People will have forgotten
    about the Healthcare bill in 2016 when he run again.

    January 13, 2013 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  25. Don Rafa

    I have no proof of this, but perhaps someone out there can verify or disprove what I have read. I read that MOST of the present illegals now in the United States are those that came more or less legally and they overstayed their visas.

    January 13, 2013 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
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