April 14th, 2013
09:42 AM ET
10 years ago

Triggers vital for path to citizenship, Rubio says

(CNN) – A bipartisan proposal to revamp U.S. immigration policies will contain three policy steps that must be accomplished before undocumented workers can apply for legal status, an architect of the measure said on Sunday.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Florida, said the "triggers" embedded in a legislative proposal to be unveiled this week are necessary to ensure workable reforms that discourage immigrants from coming to the United States illegally.

"If we don't do enforcement, if enforcement is not a part of this, and if we don't modernize legal immigration, if we don't do all of these things, then we're going to be right back here in 10 years having the same conversation - and that would be the worst outcome," Rubio told chief political correspondent Candy Crowley on CNN's "State of the Union."

Rubio, who made the rounds of Sunday talk shows, disputed conservative critics who say a pathway to citizenship is tantamount to amnesty.

“This is not amnesty. Amnesty is the forgiveness of something. Amnesty is anything that says do it illegally, it will be cheaper and easier,” he said on “Fox News Sunday.”

President Barack Obama has named comprehensive immigration reform as a top priority of his second term, fulfilling a promise he made during both of his White House bids.

Republicans have also expressed renewed interest in the issue as the party looks for new ways to expand its appeal among Hispanic voters.

The issue has a tortured history in Congress. Past attempts, including during George W. Bush’s presidency, failed and caused some supportive Republicans to lose backing with core conservatives.

But as the number of undocumented immigrants in the United States grows, both Republicans and Democrats say now is the time to revamp a system that neither side regards as adequate.

Rubio is viewed as a possible 2016 Republican presidential candidate, who insiders conclude is potentially risking crucial GOP political capital negotiating with Democrats on such a hot-button issue with uncertain prospects in Congress.

He is a member of the bipartisan “Gang of Eight” senators who plan to roll out their comprehensive reform proposal on Tuesday.

The package includes an agreement on a path to citizenship that would affect the nearly 11 million undocumented residents currently in the United States.

It would take 10 years for undocumented workers to get a green card, and then another three years to gain citizenship.

Along the way, undocumented workers would have to pay a fine and back taxes and pass a background check. The size of the fine remains unclear.

But that pathway to citizenship would remain contingent on three "triggers," which Rubio described Sunday.

They include forming an "e-verify" system for employers to check the legal status of workers; tracking immigrants entering and leaving the country, and bolstering border security, which Rubio specified would "include fencing."

"All of these things are going to happen because they are triggers, triggers for the green card process that we are laying out in our proposal," Rubio said. "That is the incentive to ensure they happen.”

“In essence, for those who are undocumented in this country, not only will they have to wait 10 years, more than 10 years, they will have to wait until all three of those things are fully implemented. If they are not implemented, there will be no green cards awarded. We think that will be an incentive," he added.

That contrasts with past positions by Obama, who has said tying a pathway to citizenship by strengthening border security could delay the process for undocumented workers.

The White House also has argued the U.S. border is currently the most secure it's ever been.

Rubio admitted on Sunday the plan was at odds with Obama's position, but noted the Senate bill had been shaped by both Democrats and Republicans.

"A bipartisan group of senators agree that should be the trigger, and hopefully we can pass a bill that has that in there," he said. "And if we do, he'll have a decision to make about whether to sign it or not. But it has to be a part of it, otherwise it won't happen."

One of the four Democrats in the “Gang of Eight,” Sen. Charles Schumer of New York praised Rubio’s efforts on Sunday, calling him a “tremendous asset” in hammering out the plan.

“The present situation is untenable,” Schumer said on ABC’s “This Week.” “This is a balanced approach that both prevents future waves of illegal immigration, but has common sense solutions.”

Rubio will also have some work to do to convince some fellow Republicans concerned the “Gang of Eight” prescription amounts to amnesty.

Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Alabama, worries the proposal would have economic consequences during an already uneven recovery from recession.

“I think it's incumbent on Republicans, Democrats, and every one of us to ask what's going to happen to working Americans, whose wages have been falling since 2000, who are unemployed at a very high rate. It will impact them adversely,” Sessions said on ABC.

Rubio, however, said he could justify "every aspect of the bill" to conservatives, noting he held many of the same positions in the past.

"I think part of my job is to explain to people what it is we worked on, to try to justify it and hopefully gain their support. That's what I look forward to doing," he said.

"We can try to address it in a way that's responsible and humane, in a way that isn't unfair to the people that are doing it the right way, and doesn't encourage people to do it in the wrong way in the future," he continued. "And that's what we've arrived at, and I hope to be able to convince people it's the right approach."

Asked whether his position as a point man for comprehensive immigration reform could influence his chances in 2016, Rubio claimed, “I haven't even thought about it in that way.”

Rubio has not said whether he will be a candidate for president.

Explaining himself to an incredulous Crowley – “Seriously, senator?” – Rubio said his work on immigration reform would speak for itself with voters.

“My belief has always been that if I do my job and I do my job well, I'll have options and opportunities in the future to do things, whether it's run for re-election, run for something else or give someone else a chance at public service. And that's how I view this issue,” he said.

Filed under: Immigration • Marco Rubio
soundoff (89 Responses)
  1. upstateny

    I will never go for immigration "reform"? Until they can explain to me how are they going to support themselves, how you can keep them off of welfare and stop abusing our health care system. They can sweet talk to get votes but that's not fixing the problem. If we don't have jobs for the "citizens" then how can we take on anymore. Use the welfare recipients and jail birds to do the work of "foreign workers" to offset their benefits. Hold a lottery for college kids that are waiting for an opportunity. Intern college students, direct them towards our future. We have great resources here but the politicians want votes not a solution.

    April 14, 2013 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  2. Richard Long

    Amnesty =
    – Higher taxation and lower quality of living = more people using EBT cards
    – Lower quality of health car as there are longer waits in Emergency Rooms
    – Higher costs for hospital visits to compensate for former-criminals free trips to the hospital
    – Higher costs for hospital visits to compensate for spanish-to-english translators
    – Lower quality of education: flood of former-criminals into the school system
    – Lower quality of education: schooling standards lowered to compensate for non-english speaking students that refuse to learn English because it is 'against their cultural identity'

    How many United States Citizens are currently unemployed: 11.7 million.

    People who blatantly broke the law should NOT be rewarded!

    April 14, 2013 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  3. Paul R.

    This is utter nonsense. Every "condition" proposed are EXACTLY WORD FOR WORD the same conditions of the last amnesty. Sealing the border is like juggling water. Every politician that votes for this should be held for treason for giving our country away, not to the highest bidder, but to the illegal invader, simply because of the lack of will to impose enforcement of LAW. History will point to these moments and wonder why we allowed this to happen. Treasonous, Disappointing. Scandalous.

    April 14, 2013 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  4. LukeVentura

    Our own adult kids can't find a job !
    If you against any kind of Amnesty, go to this website and register.
    Google this: NUMBERSUSA .Once you are registered, go to the "action board"

    April 14, 2013 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  5. W.G.

    It doesn´t matter what Rubio says .he will never be president andI I doubt if he´ll be a senator much longer .
    He´s betrayed Latinos and he´d too brown for the republican party . I saw him on "Meet the Press" and
    it wasn´t presidential he came off as . Actually it was more "Pitiful" .

    April 14, 2013 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  6. pevans1

    Just more some & mirrors...kicking the can down the road. If you think all these ILLEGALS are going to go back to their home countries, pay fines & such, get back in line and apply legally...your smoking crack... And/or, I've got a bridge to sell you. Some of them won't be alive in 10 years. The border will look the same. There will be even more ILLEGAL ALIENS here. And I'll still be looking for a job! (We've been sold down the river folks... Fire your congressman & senators!)

    April 14, 2013 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  7. TruthandConsequence

    If Rubio ever has a thought about a future Presidential nomination within the Republican Party, he must be firm on the solutions to illegal immigration. The Democrats cannot be trusted in this...they are too willing to give our borders away to tens of millions who have crossed it illegally. Rubio has to thread the difference between compromise and firmness. If he cannot do that...his base will never forget it. My own view is that we are building a false reliance on "border security" if it only means more troops and taller longer fences. Border security begins with policy...and our policies have not served us well. Our policies, instead of protecting us against illegal immigration, entice it with sanctuary cities, jobs, health, education and welfare benefits. If we cannot close those loopholes for illegal immigrants, troops and fences will be mere eyewash.

    April 14, 2013 03:02 pm at 3:02 pm |
  8. proskater

    however utopian-sounding, the old white american dream of buildings walls, closing off our borders and creating our own self-serving heaven on earth is unsustainable. we are a country built on diversity and stand as a beacon of freedom to much of the worlds population. to deny that would be foolish and impede the continued growth of our nation as a global leader. im glad we're addressing the issue, its long overdue. but we'll all have to make some compromises we dont like along the way. 🙂

    April 14, 2013 03:12 pm at 3:12 pm |
  9. barbarianofgor

    Illegal immigration is a class war thing. Just as they export jobs, often paid for by taxes on unemployment insurance, illegals are imported to flood the labor pool and bring wages down. And it ain't just picking on a farm anymore.

    This should not be some stupid left/right issue. This is America being betrayed by those that benefit the most from our society, but 15 mansions and 20 yachts aren't enough to satisfy them. And it's theft and treason for the man who hires an illegal cheats both the American and the immigrant of the American dream and does far more damage than any foreign attacker could ever do.

    April 14, 2013 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  10. Larry

    Why would an "undocumented worker" pay fines, etc. and wait ten years just to get a green card when he can simply leave the country and re-enter through an approved port of entry and get his card in 3 months (average wait time these days).

    April 14, 2013 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  11. cp

    Doing his job well would mean staying in Washington to get the job done. Sen. Rubio has been on one long campaign trip. He has appeared all over the United STates and I believe he represents Florida.

    If a green card is needed to get a job how do these immigrants support their families for their first 10 years in the United States. It is clear that people are needed to work in the service industries, in home and industrial cleaning jobs, and on farms. These are the jobs that Americans do not want or will not do.

    Mr. Rubio's family immigrated from Cuba. Many of our relatives came from eastern Europe, China, Japan, eta\., and we need to remember that our actions need to reflect the safe passage that our ancestors needed and wanted,

    April 14, 2013 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  12. g

    when has a republican ever turned away cheap labor

    April 14, 2013 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  13. Freddy Chang

    Illegals who avoid taxation by taking under-the-table jobs that 'nobody else wants' (that's a crock!) and suck up benefits in the billions in healthcare and housing subsidies. Rubio even on a CNN interview mentioned that if we cut off this gravy train, illegals would voluntarily return to their countries of origin. Cheap and easy solution. Obama is giving Americans the 'bum's rush' regarding immigration simply because he has an illegal auntie in South Boston and a 3 time drunk driver uncle who he wants to save from deportation

    April 14, 2013 06:44 pm at 6:44 pm |
  14. Marie MD

    I personally know Cubans who wouldn't vote for this guy. Good luck in 2016! What a joke this aqua man is.

    April 15, 2013 06:30 am at 6:30 am |
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