Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) put forth an outline for immigration reform last week that was published in this weekend's edition of the Wall Street Journal. His outline calls for legalization of the nation's illegal-alien population and major reforms to the existing immigration system. Sen. Rubio has not offered a bill, nor does he provide any specific details on his Senate website, but he does go into some detail of his immigration reform plan in the interview.
"I'm a big believer in family-based immigration," Sen. Rubio told the WSJ. "But I don't think that in the 21st century we can continue to have an immigration system where only 6.5% of people who come here, come here based on labor and skill. We have to move toward merit and skill-based immigration."
Sen. Rubio said he doesn't think immigration reform has to be done in one, gigantic comprehensive immigration reform bill, but instead could be done in 4-5 smaller bills.
Here's an outline of Sen. Rubio's proposal:
- Amnesty: Sen. Rubio favors a legalization process for the nation's estimated 11-18 million illegal aliens. He obviously didn't provide the WSJ with a detailed solution, but did say: "They would have to come forward. They would have to undergo a background check. … They would be fingerprinted. They would have to pay a fine, pay back taxes, maybe even do community service. They would have to prove they've been here for an extended period of time. They understand some English and are assimilated. Then most of them would get legal status and be allowed to stay in this country." He adds that anyone who has committed a "serious crime" would be deported. He also adds that anyone who hasn't violated any of the conditions of this provisional status could down the line apply for a green card and eventually citizenship.
- Dreamers: Sen. Rubio does add an exception for younger, illegal-aliens who would qualify under the DREAM Act. He says those who meet his amnesty requirements would be able to expedite the process of obtaining a green card and citizenship.
- High-skilled workers: Sen Rubio favors an increase in new immigrants who have advanced degrees in science, math, and engineering. "I don't think there's a lot of concern in this country that we'll somehow get overrun by Ph.D.s and entrepreneurs."
- Family-based immigration: Sen. Rubio favors increasing the percentage of green cards that are skills-based and reducing the percentage of green cards that are family-based. He said there are two ways to go about adjusting the ratios: 1) reducing the number of family-based green cards or 2) increasing the number of skills-based green cards. He said he favors the second option over the first.
- Agriculture: Sen. Rubio favors increasing the number visas for agriculture ignoring the fact that the current H-2A visa program provides an unlimited number of agricultural workers to U.S. farmers. Many farmers, however, bypass the H-2A program. "Just the process to come here to legally work in agriculture is very difficult and very expensive. It doesn't work well. So that alone encourages illegal immigration. … The goal is to give American agriculture a reliable work force and to give protection to these workers as well. When someone is [undocumented] they're vulnerable to being exploited."
- Workplace enforcement: Sen. Rubio favors mandatory E-Verify and was a cosponsor to Sen. Chuck Grassley's mandatory E-Verify bill (S.1196) that was offered in the last Congress. "[Y]ou want to protect those folks [legal immigrants] that are coming here. ... and the value of their visa and the decision they've made. You're not protecting them if you allow their wages and their status to be undermined by further illegal immigration in the future."
- Border Security: Sen. Rubio doesn't offer any specifics for adding additional security to the border and ports of entry, nor does he say that securing the border is a requirement before further immigration legislation can be considered like many of his Republican colleagues say.
For more information, see Sen. Rubio's full interivew with the Wall Street Journal.
Updated: Mon, Jan 14th 2013 @ 10:55am EST