Marco Rubio crafts conservative argument for immigration reform. Will it sell?
GOP Sen. Marco Rubio is out front as the 'gang of 8' releases its immigration reform plan. The move puts him toe to toe with conservative talk-show hosts and could make or break a presidential run in 2016.
With the Senate’s “gang of 8” releasing the legislative text of their immigration reform compromise early Wednesday morning, Sen. Marco Rubio (R) of Florida is more on the spot than ever.Skip to next paragraph
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Even as Senator Rubio and his colleagues in the immigration gang debated exactly what would be in the bill, the charismatic freshman lawmaker of Cuban heritage went on a PR blitz, putting himself in the line of fire of conservative radio hosts who sneer at “amnesty” as if it were a four-letter word and appearing on no fewer than seven political talk shows last Sunday.
Now, Rubio has an actual bill to defend – and initial comments from him and his office lay out how he plans to win over weary conservatives while keeping his 2016 presidential prospects bright.
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First, Rubio has craftily dispatched with the complaint that the Senate bill is tantamount to an “amnesty” for illegal immigrants.
“No one gets amnesty,” says a fact sheet from Rubio’s office, issued alongside his comments on the bill. “Unless we continue to do nothing, this bill will eliminate today’s status quo, de facto amnesty.”
That “de facto amnesty” is a key part of Rubio’s critique and sits at the heart of his argument to conservative audiences: Today, the lack of border security and immigration enforcement effectively lets the government to look the other way on illegal immigration, while local governments bear the burden.
“The reality is that today’s de facto amnesty already costs taxpayers,” Rubio’s office argues. “Our local communities see this firsthand through their overburdened school and health systems, as well as taxes that are going unpaid because employers and workers choose to work under the table.”
Second, Rubio argues that the bill’s security provisions will give conservatives what they have long sought: secure borders largely impermeable to would-be migrants.
“The security triggers are not left at the discretion of politicians with agendas,” the Rubio fact sheet reads. “Real measurable results must be achieved, and politicians cannot override them.”
Later, Rubio makes an argument for immigration reform along law-and-order lines traditionally favored by conservatives: By allowing otherwise law-abiding people to come forward, the US can focus its immigration enforcement resources on criminals such as drug dealers and human traffickers.
Third, Rubio vows that Republican concerns about a massive bill getting jammed through Congress (as they believe Democrats did with President Obama’s health-care law) have been heard by the immigration reformers.
Rubio foresees that the immigration reform proposal will receive weeks of debate, hearings, and amendments in the Senate Judiciary Committee and a similar amount of time on the floor of the US Senate.
He also cites a few plums to conservative audiences. The bill, he argues, constitutes a “partial repeal of ObamaCare,” in that it would bar newly documented immigrants from accessing the coverage provided under the health-care law. Likewise, the legislation avoids the ire of social conservatives in that it does not recognize LGBT relationships as a basis for immigration decisions, as does the Uniting Families Act favored by Democrats in both chambers.