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. Jinx9to88

    Another GOP joke!!! It should be an interesting next few years on the GOP side.

    April 14, 2013 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  2. ST

    Why all 3 triggers should be in place? Is bolstering the border security the work of those who are applying for citizenship? Listening to Rubio talking, he looked as if he was schooled first to what he has to say. To my observation, there is nothing which will be done, it is just the matter of passing time. Dems must, if they have not done so, think of another alternative to solve this problem.

    April 14, 2013 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  3. Thomas

    Rubio , he wants to be President so bad .

    April 14, 2013 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  4. Anonymous

    This is NOT immigration reform, Marco Rubio. This is once again kicking the immigration can down the road in hopes that no none will take notice that nothing is being achieved either for or against immigration reform.

    April 14, 2013 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  5. Jim

    Democrats want the (illegal) immigrant vote. Republicans want the cheap labor. This still looks like a rerun of 1975 and 1986.

    April 14, 2013 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  6. They ought to change from the elephant to the hippo...

    Maybe a path to citizenship should include building a portion of a fence...

    April 14, 2013 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  7. Frustrated_indian_professional

    What's in this for professionals of international origin like me who have been stuck in the legal immigration system for 10 years

    April 14, 2013 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  8. Will Beararms

    Earth to GOP; Earth to GOP: 15 million Mexicans here illegally are not going home. Demand the Southern border be secured and then offer these people a reasonable path to citizenship. Fully integrate them into the tax system. Doing so will cause wages for many to rise by bringing these people out of the shadows. It's not the ideal scenario but its the best option we have all things considered.

    April 14, 2013 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  9. Bob

    Don't forget if an illegal alien enters the U.S. a second time (millions have) then the are guilty of a felony. Are we giving amnesty to felonys? Either make E-Verify mandatory with huge fines/jail or repeal our immigration laws. P.S. STOP calling these illegal aliens undocumented or immigrants because they are in fact (read our U.S. code) illegal aliens.

    April 14, 2013 11:23 am at 11:23 am |
  10. Wait....

    Why is this guy acting like he's even relevant in this conversation? He guaranteed his obsolescence a long time ago

    April 14, 2013 11:31 am at 11:31 am |
  11. Jack

    We're in this situation because we didn't enforce the Immigration laws in the first place. Fix the borders first or continue to have these problems.

    April 14, 2013 11:33 am at 11:33 am |
  12. Distrust Authority

    Our government does not represent us, we should get a new one.

    April 14, 2013 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
  13. Randy, San Francisco

    Sen Rubio isn't have much success with this delicate juggling act. Democrats will get the credit for immigration reform while Republicans will anger a large portion of its base. Nevertheless, it is the moral and right thing to do.

    April 14, 2013 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  14. Tony in Maine

    The NKVD border guards are probably available pretty cheap since the Russians are no where near as paranoid as we are.

    April 14, 2013 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  15. LukeVentura

    New Study Says Recent College Grads Likely to be Stuck in Low-Skill Jobs.
    Why do some members of Congress want to give work permits to 11-18 million illegal aliens?
    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 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  16. JG

    So the republican Rubio now wants bigger government to maintain an e-tracking system, bigger government for border security, bigger government for fencing, and bigger government tracking who enters and leaves the country.

    I guess he also wants to cut taxes to pay for all of this.....

    Yes.....the GOP....the party of smaller government.

    April 14, 2013 11:55 am at 11:55 am |
  17. stephen

    Cubans dont really align themselves with other latinos they tend to put themsleves on a peddle stool. Im not impressed.

    April 14, 2013 11:58 am at 11:58 am |
  18. rr

    wow...so we dont care about legal immigrants becos they pay tax, follow laws and contributing to this country!!! some of my legal immigrant frds r waiting more than a decade for their green card!! but who cares!!..yes, letz give green card to illegals!!?!?

    April 14, 2013 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  19. Milenidol

    Rubio is appearing more and more like a Communist Dictator, like the Country he sprung from...Cuba!
    Rubio, youre not an American...youre a Cuban, Communist Dictator, like Castro...Look at yourself...think of what you say...

    April 14, 2013 12:01 pm at 12:01 pm |
  20. sambo

    @jinx9to 88. So let them in free and by the millions???? go back to Mexico

    April 14, 2013 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  21. No Party Patriot

    Rubio is a phony, always has been.

    April 14, 2013 12:09 pm at 12:09 pm |
  22. Biasid news

    Deportation is the ONLY "must"

    April 14, 2013 12:13 pm at 12:13 pm |
  23. fairusa

    people who followed all immigration laws are now waiting for the last 11 years, and they might wait another 5 years before they see Green Card , I applied my green card in 2003 march , now USCIS processing 2002 cases, USCIS wasted atleast 400,000 Employment based green cards between 1999 and 2009 according to USCIS ombudsman.

    If you came to US illeagally you only have to wait 10 years before you get green card , but if you do it leaglly like me, you have to wait 16 years.... who cares if you follow law.....neither democrats, nor republicans.

    April 14, 2013 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  24. Sam

    I came to United States legally it took me 8 years to come to the stage where I am and I do not agree to this illegal reforms... Almost 6 million people are standing in the line to come to United States and are you going to tell them that they are fools to stand in the line? I feel like bringing class action law suit against this legislation....

    April 14, 2013 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  25. Noname

    Stephen: What is a peddle stool? I've never heard of that before .......

    April 14, 2013 12:25 pm at 12:25 pm |
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