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. rs

    Just like the GOP folding on single-sex marriage, they'll wind up blowing up immigration reform too. So much for re-branding!

    April 14, 2013 01:23 pm at 1:23 pm |
  2. MrScott

    Tough enforcement and strict penalties... Right. This country can't keep track of who comes into this country and leaves when they have a visa and further more doesn't enforce the expiration of visas! How many have overstayed their student visa? How many times have illegals came into this country multiple times, been captured and released to their home country? The head of Homeland security says the boarders are secure only to be proven wrong on multiple occasions. I'm sorry, politicians can sure talk but they have a track record that is as poor as their approval rating.

    April 14, 2013 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  3. jimmorrisonmania

    Everyone seems to forget that when amnesty was handed out in 1986 we had a million illegals. Now we have between 11 and 18 million. As far as enforcement you better believe that both parties will be as dedicated to it as they are now which is NOT AT ALL…This will bankrupt all social services, and turn the US into a third world country with endless chains of immigration coming from south of the border. Every citizen should oppose this treasonous legislation as should those who came here legally or are waiting to enter the country and following the rules. One thing is for sure. If amnesty is handed out, the US will become a third world country much like Mexico where many of these lawbreakers are coming from. Eventually those who have invaded us will find themselves in the same situation they would have been in had they stayed south of the border. I will migrate to Canada and hope their Government isn’t as stupid as this Gang of 8 and all the others who want unhindered illegal migration. By the way you folks in Canada should be keeping a close eye on all that is going on here, because once the US is invaded they will look to invade you next.

    April 14, 2013 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  4. The REAL TRUTH...

    @John.... you do realize that MOST of the 11 million are already employed and would not swell the social service buckets.. the jobs you claim they are taking from "Americans" are those same jobs that most of us consider "too good" for us to do, and don't pay enough to make it "worth our time".
    Check your facts dude...

    April 14, 2013 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  5. Clarence Black

    NO, NO. Not green cards, only work permits. That is all they deserve. You are telling me these law breakers deserve permanent status over the millions who have waited their turn in another country. If you think the 12 million that are here are the only persons who are going to come across the boarder, you are stupid. Only 2-3 % of them should have a pathway to citizenship.

    April 14, 2013 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  6. Leftcoastrocky

    "Rubio admitted Sunday the plan was at odds with Obama’s position, but noted the Senate bill had been shaped by both Democrats and Republicans." It will likely also be at odds with Teapublicans' position and therefore will represent a middle-of-the-road compromise which should be passed into law.

    April 14, 2013 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  7. joe

    No citizenship until they return to their home countries and wait in line like everyone else.

    April 14, 2013 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  8. Bob1god

    Rubio, the debate has crossed the Rubicon, so sit down, shut up, and grow up!

    April 14, 2013 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  9. Jim970

    Obama said; "tying a pathway to citizenship to strengthening border security could delay the process for the millions of undocumented workers living in the U.S." This guy is so out of touch with reality in his attempts to get more democrat voters. So, securing the border would delay legalizing immigrants. So what? There is some sort of rush job needed? Oh, of course there is. The Democrats need all the votes they can get as soon as they can get them.

    And, Mr. President, these are NOT "undocumented workers", they are illegal aliens. First it is not that they forgot to fill out all the needed forms when they sneaked across the border in dark of night. Second, not all of them are even "workers". Some came to the US pregnant, so their anchor babies would allow them access to government dollars so they would not have to work. Some came in to bring drugs. There are many other reasons for illegal entry other than a burning desire to work.

    April 14, 2013 01:55 pm at 1:55 pm |
  10. Southernsuga

    I have contacted y congressmen and asked them not to vote for amnesty, in any way, shape or form. they should all be deported.

    April 14, 2013 01:57 pm at 1:57 pm |
  11. bigbiz

    Once again the black folks get the shaft.We have been here 500 years ..used to have whole families.Welfare ran the man off.Now no jobs for them or thay children..But give away money,jobs and neighborhoods to illegals.Now they will be "legal" and push us even more back.We already speak English and are already citizens .

    April 14, 2013 01:58 pm at 1:58 pm |
  12. Jim970

    The borders MUST BE SECURED before we even talk about any sort of immigrations program (read amnesty – for that is what it really is).

    April 14, 2013 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  13. Hypocrites

    Corporations thrive on illegal immigrants. Because they are undocumented, they can pay them terrible wages and treat them like slaves for the rest of their lives. Corporations don't like immigration reform.

    April 14, 2013 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  14. Sam

    If you're willing to work, come on over. BUT, you cannot be convicted of any crimes and you must pass a basic English proficiency test. And you have to make it easier to immigrate legally than illegally, otherwise, you are creating an incentive to break the law.

    April 14, 2013 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  15. R1983

    When will people get it, Rubio do not care about the Latino's, all he cares about is the Cuba people in Miami. People think
    he has a chance at being President, but take this from a Florida resident we are going to do everything we can to get him
    out of the Senate in 2016, I know he will not be President because Hilary will get that Job.

    April 14, 2013 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  16. kathleenvs

    @John Each one of your four points is completely false. Republicans just can't resist making things up. And most of what they make up is designed to frighten people. The only thing missing from John's comment is that there will be more crime so you will need assault weapons and extended clips to protect yourself.

    April 14, 2013 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  17. Paul

    Rubio caught between a rock and a hard place. He needs to favor immigration to get some Hispanic support for his 2016 run but if he fully supports immigration reform then hia base of conservatives will be pissed. If he supports a plan that makes it to tough to become a citizen that won't help either.

    April 14, 2013 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  18. DAN

    John, Isecond that!

    April 14, 2013 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  19. Guest

    So let me get this straight – people have to wait a total of 13 years BEFORE they can apply to become citizens IF the US Govt puts these three items into effect FIRST? SO, if these people DO everything they're asked to do and the US Govt DOESN'T keep its part of the bargain they get nothing – what happens then? Sounds to me like typical Republican tactics to keep the homeland "pure" by using a LATINO Senator to do their dirty work this time around so they don't appear racist or elitist to everyone else. I can't wait for the next set of elections.

    April 14, 2013 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  20. Legal Immigrant

    I agree that we have no choice but to allow illegal immigrants to become legal residents. I would make/add couple changes to the condition mentioned above
    1) illegal immigrant are only allowed to become citizen if they were born in USA (in the sense that children who were born here did not have any choice). all other illegal immigrant should only get a green card or working visa (no right to vote)
    2) Any child born to illegal immigrant after the bill passes in the congress, will not have option to become citizen only option to apply for green card or working visa
    3) Any illegal immigrant caught after the bill passes (and some grace period) who has not applied to become legal resident will be deported without any exception.

    April 14, 2013 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  21. Jonathan Cortes

    Coming from a Mexican-American family, Most of you commenting put shame to my American heritage. Racism and ignorance, You talk like you know how the future would play out. I don't see anyone complaining about the previous amnesty,Why? Because the country was doing great financially...Now you want to blame Illegal immigrants for the state of the country?!?! Sure go ahead, Don't blame greedy corporations and politicians. Outsourcing "your jobs" to other countries. Undermining OUR society by finding the cheapest way to increase their wealth. All i hear is Welfare, Job competition,Chain Migration (If that even exists). Racist sterotypical thought processes that are destroying this country. Are you implying only Latinos are on Welfare? Sure buddy, no one else. Job Competition?!? Just because these people have a more willingness to work than others, Is that a reason to keep them out? Wouldn't these workers benefit our country?!? America, please don't fail US now.

    April 14, 2013 02:16 pm at 2:16 pm |
  22. fernace

    Undocumented people come here from all over the world, not just Mexico! In the words of a comedian, a 20 foot fence will only increase sales of 25 ft ladders! This is the Promise Land & the world wants to live here! I think 10 years is too long, 5 to green card, 3 to citizenship sounds more doable! As a legal immigrant, I do believe in jumping through the legal hoops, but we must also understand the motivation & sheer determination of people trying to escape horrific regimes & poverty that is mind boggling!!

    April 14, 2013 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  23. David

    This will be the final nail in America's coffin. We cant handle 12 million more people that are criminal for being here. It's an act of war to invade another counrty. We are broke, we cant afford the welfare for millions more.

    April 14, 2013 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  24. Greg

    They will be eligible for welfare! So, just shut up and keep paying! Actually, pay more...

    April 14, 2013 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  25. Tim

    Legal immigrants also need to seek help from honorable senators/gang of eight to include the reforms for legal immigration system as well as a part of the agenda. It takes around 15-20 years to get a green card for legal immigrants. I believe Country cap, longer processing time makes it more worst for them.

    April 14, 2013 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
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