There’s No “Fatal Flaw” in Rubio’s Immigration Plan

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) (photo credit: Gage Skidmore)
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) (photo credit: Gage Skidmore)

Senator Marco Rubio has been one of the foremost advocates in the GOP of immigration reform.  His sponsorship of the “Gang of Eight” bill in 2013 and his subsequent proposals to fix our broken system have put him in the top tier of reform candidates.  Now, however, Business Insider is claiming activists have found a “fatal flaw” in Rubio’s immigration plan that will prevent reform from happening at all:

Rubio has since abandoned comprehensive immigration-reform legislation for what he describes as a more realistic approach. His current plan calls for dealing with border security and illegal hiring before other components of reform – changing the green card and visa system, or addressing the approximately 11 million immigrants who don’t have permission to be in the US.

Alex Conant, the communications director for Rubio’s campaign, described this shift when Business Insider asked him about the criticism from immigration-reform activists. He said the failure of the Gang of Eight bill showed the need for a different strategy.

“The all-or-nothing approach will continue to leave immigration-reform advocates with nothing,” Conant said. “The only way to fix our broken immigration system is to first secure our borders.”

[Immigration activist] Sharry dismisses this as “campaign-oriented tortured doublespeak.” He said it is designed to help Rubio maintain support from pro-reform members of the business community and Latino voters without angering the conservative base in the crowded GOP primary.

So basically, Business Insider’s much vaunted “expose” is the fact that Rubio wants to fix the leaky border.  Forgive me if I’m a bit slow, but how is this fatal, or even a flaw?  One of the main obstacles holding back immigration reform is the perception that the U.S. can’t control who comes in and out of our country.  It’s hard to convince Congress to pass another immigration law when we don’t seem to be enforcing the ones we have.  Rubio proposes to fix this with modernization of our border patrol as well as a crucial exit-entry system that would monitor for overstayed visas (over 40 percent of illegal immigrants come in legally and then just don’t leave when their visa expires).

After we’ve done all this, Rubio proposes a solution for the immigrants already here:

“They will have to pass a background check, they will have to pay a fine, they will have to start paying taxes, they will have to learn English,” Rubio said of immigrants who lack proper documentation. “In exchange for that, what they will get is a work permit that allows them to legally work in the United States and travel, and that’s all they will have for an extended period of time. And then at some point in the future, we can have a further conversation about whether they’re allowed to apply for a green card.”

A well monitored guest worker program is a reasonable proposal that would help companies in the U.S. create higher paying jobs for American citizens and allow immigrants to come out of the shadows.  I’m still waiting to hear the “fatal flaw” in Rubio’s reasoning, because so far I like his “fix the border, then implement a guest worker program” approach.

Nick Arnold is a researcher for American Principles in Action.