White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough appeared on Sunday talk shows to defend a draft amnesty plan that was leaked just a day before. McDonough said the plan was developed for backup purposes and indicated the White House still wants Congress to lead the legislative drafting effort. In response, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said the leaked plan would be “dead on arrival” if introduced in Congress.
Under the leaked plan obtained by USA Today, illegal aliens who meet certain criteria could apply for a “Lawful Protective Immigrant” visa, which would allow them to live and work in the United States for four years before reapplying. They could apply for legal permanent residency -- the first step in becoming a citizen -- within eight years as long as they learn English, pay back taxes, and avoid arrest. The draft also proposes more border security funding and mandatory E-Verify for new hires. Businesses with more than 1,000 employees would have to use the system within two years, businesses with more than 250 employees within three years and all businesses within four years.
On the Sunday talk shows, McDonough said the White House plan is a backup in case Congress moves too slowly. "We are doing exactly what we said we would do, which is we'll be prepared in the event that the bipartisan talks going on the Hill — which by the way we're very aggressively supporting — if those do not work out, then we'll have an option that we'll be ready to put out there," McDonough said.
Republican amnesty proponents slammed the plan’s release. In a press release, Sen. Rubio said, “If actually proposed, the President’s bill would be dead on arrival in Congress, leaving us with unsecured borders and a broken legal immigration system for years to come.” Rubio said the White House wanted citizenship for illegal aliens without securing the borders or addressing the “future flow” of immigrants.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., agreed the White House plan would fail and said, "This raises the question that many of us are continuing to wonder about: Does the president really want a result, or does he want another cudgel to beat up Republicans so that he can get political advantage in the next election?"
The Hill, a Capitol Hill newspaper, quoted several Democrats who said the President will act unilaterally if Congress fails to act. Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Calif., said, "They’re giving Congress a chance to work its will…(but)…I don't think he's going to wait too long. Becerra said the President would submit a bill and “move forward where he can if Congress doesn't act."
Rep. Joseph Crowley, D-N.Y., said, "There are limitations as to what he can do with executive order…but he did say that if Congress continued to fail to act that he would take steps and measures to enact common-sense executive orders to move this country forward."
Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., said there are "plenty" of executive measures the President could take if Congress fails to pass legislation. "The huge one," Grijalva said, is "the waiving of deportation….Like the deferred action that was taken with the Dream Act, I think that can be done for family members…Four million of the undocumented are people who overstayed their visas to stay with family. So that would be, I think, an area in which…there's a great deal of executive authority that he could deal with." Grijalva said the Administration also could waive visa caps to ensure that agriculture and other industries have access to more foreign workers.
Read related articles in USA Today and The Hill.