With all the swirling, emotionally charged rhetoric and debate around the topic of illegal immigration, many people may be left numbed, or at least confused, by it all. With the re-election of possibly the most aggressively Liberal president America has ever seen, Republicans are becoming acutely aware that they need to come up with an immigration reform plan which not only counters the sweeping amnesty proposed by Democrats and backed by the President; It needs to offer a concrete and realistic solution to the issue of illegal immigration. Republicans know that, if a clear solution capable of garnering the broadest base of support is not offered by the GOP, amnesty will win, the country will only see a continuation of the same problems, and Republicans will have lost their chance to put in place a real remedy to this pressing problem.
Enter Florida Senator Marco Rubio
The Miami born son of legal immigrants and level-headed thinker who knows the issues of immigration well, Rubio has definitely seen the faces of both legal and illegal immigration up close and personal in South Florida.
Marco Rubio offers what he calls “a responsible but humane plan”. In short, he offers a balanced plan, and he’s finding support among fellow Republican members, and even some from the other side of the aisle. Here’s a look at what may become the Republicans’ official offering to fix the problem.
What is Rubio’s plan?
Rubio describes his plan as consisting of three main principles:
1) To modernize and repair our broken legal immigration process.
2) To effectively enforce existing immigration laws.
3) To find a way to deal with the more than twelve million people already illegally present in the U.S.
Modernizing Our Legal Immigration Process
Modernizing our legal immigration process refers to cleaning up the clogged, broken process for emigrating to America legally. As it stands now, the process for most is daunting, intimidating, overwhelming. Modernization also refers to increasing the number of people who come here based on skill and talents, which they can offer our American workforce. Rubio recognizes the need for people with talent and education in the areas which drive the prosperity of America’s future – areas such as technology, math, and science.
Effectively Enforcing Existing Immigration Laws
Rubio sees effectively enforcing existing immigration laws as the keystone principle to getting the problem of illegal immigration under control. The first priority would be enforcing control of the borders. The U.S. already has laws and guidelines regarding our borders, but they are not being enforced. The lack of enforcement of immigration laws effectively gives us “de facto amnesty” because it sends the message that there is no real consequence or threat of penalty to those here undocumented. Enforcement of immigration laws also includes verification and enforcement in the workplace, as well as doing a better job of tracking visitors in the U.S. It is estimated that 40% of all those present in the U.S. illegally arrive here legallyand then simply stay after their visa expires.
Dealing with Those Already Illegally Present in the U.S.
It is estimated that more than twelve million people – men, women, and children – are in the U.S. Illegally, and many contend this is a reserved estimate. Sen. Rubio’s third principle is to deal with those people in a humane, compassionate, yet responsible way. He suggests, “We have to identify those here illegally. If they’ve committed a crime, they get deported. Those are not the kind of people we want on the path to citizenship”.
Those who remain would be given permits to work legally in the U.S., but with several requirements to maintain that privilege. Among those would be to pay a fine for having been here illegally, pay “back” taxes, learn English, do community service, maintain themselves free of any legal troubles, and various other requirements in order to demonstrate they are truly interested in being good citizens.
In exchange for meeting the ongoing requirements, they would receive a “Non-Immigrant Visa”. Such a visa would NOT qualify them for welfare, food stamps, or any other government benefits. It would qualify them to legally remain in the U.S. to work and would give them the ability to apply for renewal. This visa alone would NOT grant them citizenship or residency. Rubio says, “This would be a probationary period and would last a significant – not unreasonable but significant – time period”. His aim is to make that time period significant enough that it would not be an easy pass and certainly would not be amnesty.
After this significant probationary period, those who have met the ongoing requirements would be allowed to apply for RESIDENCY (effectively, a “green card”). To be fair to those who have pursued residency legally, people holding these non-immigrant visas would be placed at the back of the line. Once residency is granted, it would be another five years or more before one would be granted permanent citizenship. So, to be clear, while Rubio’s plan does offer a pathway to citizenship, it does NOT offer an easy pass by any means.
What is the appeal of Rubio’s plan?
Some on the far Right criticize Rubio’s plan as being too soft on the issue, but what Rubio seems to understand is that, for a plan to pass once and for all on the complex issue of immigration, it will need to contain an effective balance of elements that offer a reasonable compromise and elements which appeal to the widest variety of supporters on both sides of the aisle.
And that broader base of support is exactly what Sen. Marco Rubio is finding. While there will continue to be the ever present opposition from both the far right AND the far left, most rational thinkers on both sides of the aisle see the balance in his plan. While there are concessions on both sides, there are also elements which satisfy many in both parties.