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. w l jones

    That a good one

    April 14, 2013 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  2. Gateway

    Rubio is making a lame attempt. He is becoming the newest party hack and a few more years down the road he will become the old party hack. He has sold out his integrety for a chance to run in a presidential nomination process.

    April 14, 2013 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  3. Rick1948

    This is just a game for the Republicans. It's the old, "give me what I want first" and then, based on some impossible measurement criteria, if it shows to be a success, then maybe I'll think about giving you what you want later.

    April 14, 2013 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  4. WTFGuy

    Why is everybody so quick to give away CITIZENSHIP to cheaters/law breakers? Why not just GIVE them residency without the possibility of citizenship? The left would get these people "out of the shadows" while the right would keep them from voting democratic in the future. We should reserve citizenship just for those immigrants that earn it by doing it the right legal way.

    April 14, 2013 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  5. John

    Every American should oppose the Senate Gang of Eight's amnesty proposal to legalize millions of illegal immigrants in a time of budget deficit crisis and high unemployment.

    Combined with current laws, the legalization would be a pathway to massive new welfare expenditures, job competition, chain migration and more illegal immigration.

    1. It would cost trillions of dollars in extra government spending on social services.

    2. It would immediately put millions of illegal aliens in front of the employment line to hold or take U.S. jobs while 20 million Americans who want a full-time job can't find one.

    3. It would allow amnestied aliens to begin endless chains of relatives to come and add further competition for jobs and government resources.

    4. It would immediately legalize 11 million illegal aliens without requiring triggers that fully implement enforcement first. The previous seven amnesties between 1986 and 2000 had no enforcement triggers and served only to entice 11 million new illegal immigrants who now demand their own amnesty.
    Join numbersusadotcom and demand your senator and rep VOTE AGAINST AMNESTY

    April 14, 2013 12:43 pm at 12:43 pm |
  6. RANDY

    The real question is who is sponsoring these illegal aliens?
    1) International students: they have to get an admission and a sponsorship letter from university to come to the United States.
    2) H1B, L1, J1- skilled workers (65,000 visas annually) they have to get sponsorship from their respective employers to come to the United States and if the employer filled their green card then they have to stand in the line fro years t get their permanent residency
    3) family base immigrant: they have to get sponsorship from their family members and their family members have to file financial affidavit of support in order to guarantee that they are financially capable to sponsor them.
    4) And in all of these category having good moral character is a prime condition meaning no criminal background people are allowed in the country.

    April 14, 2013 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
  7. Lilly

    He can spin this however he wants but, here's the fact.
    Rubio and the GOP and the US Chamber of Commerce are on one side of the negotiation table and what they're fighting for is MORE Visas for foreign workers and LOWER WAGES
    Their counterpart in the negotiation, the Dems and the AFLCIO (union) are fighting for LESS foreign worker Visas and HIGHER WAGES.

    That's it. That's the two sides

    April 14, 2013 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  8. eleridge

    John, I agree with you. More social/welfare spending. Who is going to pay for this? The tax payers. It is already to the point that 50% support the other 50%. We are becoming a welfare county.
    And what about all the people who are trying to come to the US legally? They go to the back of the line.

    April 14, 2013 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  9. boby

    ALL GOP & Damocret member make illegal immigant for ad on law who had no criminal record in ck in one year period & who paid back texes gave him work permit with entering & Leaving eassy in usa. as same make allien white card not geen card. so good for every body & secure america too

    April 14, 2013 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  10. Will Beararms

    People here illegally are costing us trillions in the first place truth be told.

    Hope is not a strategy. We need a solid plan to assimilate 15 million people who are not going home.

    April 14, 2013 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |

    A Cuban on the ballot means nothing to the general population of the
    Hispanic community. Most Latin Americans don't like Cubans

    Cubans have enjoyed a status not accorded to any other immigrant group over time. In this work,Illegal Immigrants from Cuba: Preferential Treatment

    It costs U.S. taxpayers almost $10 million a year — more than $100 million since TV Martí began — to keep broadcasting TV Martí's anti-Castro invective into the ether.In order to provide aid to recently arrived Cuban immigrants, the United States Congress passed the Cuban Adjustment Act in 1966. The Cuban Refugee Program provided more than $1.3 billion of direct financial assistance. They also were eligible for public assistance, Medicare, free English courses, scholarships, and low-interest college loans. Some banks even pioneered loans for exiles who did not have collateral or credit but received help in getting a business loan. These loans enabled many Cuban Americans to secure funds and start up their own businesses.

    South Florida is known as the capital of Medicare fraud,

    April 14, 2013 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  12. CAWinMD

    I'm okay with Rubio's triggers as long as it is clearly spelled out what those triggers mean and how they are measured. "Bolstering border security" is not a measurable trigger. Republicans have proven time and again that they are immune to actual data. So if Rubio wants those triggers, the bipartisan group had better define what the triggers mean, how they are measured, and what the thresholds are for meeting those triggers. If they don't do that, then the triggers will never be seen to be met, and we're in the same place as we are now.

    April 14, 2013 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |

    Marco Rubio trying to look more Hispanic by referring to the same Marco Rubio who talks big but fails to deliver? I am a firm believer of Washington living by the same standards as the people, across the board (in terms of benefits, salaries, vacations, retirement, etc.). The question is, is this guy in over his head or not ? Am I alone in thinking he is not representing all Floridians? It's time to recall Marco Rubio or vote him out of office.

    April 14, 2013 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |

    Why do the pro illegal natural assume all illegal are Hispanics ?

    there is a difference between Illegal and Legal immigration.  All sides of the immigration debate need to recognize that distinction in order to hold productive debate.

    other vs. Cubans: Is There A Double Standard On Illegal Aliens?

    Seems like a double standard. If you come from Cuba you are granted automatic residency, but if you come from other countries you need to have the proper documentation

    South Florida is known as the capital of Medicare fraud, but increasingly Cuba is where the scammers go to avoid prosecution

    April 14, 2013 01:00 pm at 1:00 pm |
  15. Monomachos

    I applaud the efforts of Rubio and his colleagues from both parties to try to get something done. Compromise is the only way to achieve reform and if people on both sides are somewhat upset, then compromise has been achieved.

    April 14, 2013 01:04 pm at 1:04 pm |
  16. billmosby

    "Forming" an e-verify system? It has been "formed" for quite a few years now, and has worked well in voluntary use. It only has to be made mandatory.

    As for border security, weren't we assured by the Secretary of Homeland Security a couple of years ago that border security was complete? (rhetorical question, of course...)

    April 14, 2013 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  17. Bud

    Let's let everyone out of prison and just let them start over. Rubio is a traitor and would obviously do anything to get votes.

    April 14, 2013 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  18. Anonymous

    I find it funny that immigration enforcement is such a huge part of this, but sequestration pummeled Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) budget and the president wants to cut it an additional 11% for 2014! ICE is the agency which is SOLELY responsible for interior enforcement of immigration law. I don't see republicans even mentioning this anywhere. You folks wanting strict enforcement might want to call your reps on their shananigans.

    April 14, 2013 01:07 pm at 1:07 pm |
  19. Jeff

    "2. It would immediately put millions of illegal aliens in front of the employment line to hold or take U.S. jobs while 20 million Americans who want a full-time job can't find one."

    That one was good for a laugh. All those unemployed Americans are lining up to take these jobs, eh? Wow, you are delusional. Illegal immigrants do the jobs THAT NO OTHER AMERICANS WANT TO DO OR ARE TOO LAZY OR "TOO GOOD" TO DO.

    April 14, 2013 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
  20. Hoot

    Marco Rubio will have credibility on immigration issues when he advocates that immigrants from other countries are treated the same as those from his homeland – Cuba. So either grant automatic legal status as soon as they set foot on American soil, or make Cubans go through the same process as any other immigrant. Until then, Rubio is just another hypocrit.

    April 14, 2013 01:12 pm at 1:12 pm |
  21. Badly-Bent

    So, what protects these "provisions" from becoming unfunded / unexercised in the future? Seems to me, we had enforcement laws that were allowed to be ignored, we had a border fence intiative that we unfunded, we built an E-Verify system that no one wanted to make mandatory, we were supposed to be tracking all aliens (I don't know how that one was allowed to be disregarded?) If teh Chamber of Commerce want more cheap labor, none of this will prevent another flood of immigrants.

    April 14, 2013 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  22. Phazon

    Are the idiots? The reason why peopleare unhappy is because it makes it nearly impossible to become a citizen here so they are going to make it harder and more expensive I mean really go back to your home country and pay you fines do they even realize how much an average Mexican makes a week? About 100 a week it would take you 10 years just to make half if you never spent anything you earned just to make half.

    April 14, 2013 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
  23. Anonymous

    Republicans hate everyone, except Whites(with money)! They only want immigrants in oreder to get votes! I'm latino, and I would be dead before I would ever vote Republican again!

    April 14, 2013 01:17 pm at 1:17 pm |
  24. jack johnson

    Rubio when are you going to add Cubian's to the same list for citizen ship as the Mexicans? Right if some one from Cuba steps foot on Amarican soil under their own power they are automaticaly citizens, so why not the same for Mexicians?

    April 14, 2013 01:19 pm at 1:19 pm |
  25. Jerry Okamura

    How many of you believe that if this becomes law, that ten years from that time, we will no longer have a problem of people entering this country illegally? And if you believe we will still have people entering this country illegally and living in this country illegally, what is the purpose of this law?

    April 14, 2013 01:20 pm at 1:20 pm |
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