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Daily Amnesty Update: On Immigration, White House = Gang of Eight

author Published by Chris Chmielenski

More than a few columnists and political analysts have picked up on the fact that there’s not much difference between the Senate Gang of Eight’s immigration principles and the leaked White House immigration plan that Gang Member Marco Rubio so loathes.

In Tuesday’s Washington Post, liberal columnist and MSNBC political analyst Eugene Robinson wrote: 

“[The White House plan is] really not much different from what Rubio’s group is talking about. But Republicans can slam Obama’s plan as some sort of Kenyan-socialist-inspired abdication of sovereignty. They can blast the provisions on border security as laughable. They can describe the absence of a real plan for reforming the legal immigration process as slapdash, or unserious, or whatever they want to call it.

“Republicans in the Senate can line up instead behind a bill that Rubio’s Group of Eight eventually produces; even Paul, a tea party favorite, has indicated he could vote for reform as long as he had more than “a promise from President Obama” on border security.”

In National Review, conservative columnist Heather Mac Donald came to almost the same conclusion: 

“I’m not usually a conspiracy theorist, but it’s hard not to see at least a shadow of a good-cop/bad-cop routine in the reaction of the Gang of Eight to President Obama’s leaked blueprint for “comprehensive immigration reform.” Obama’s plan differs in largely trivial ways from the gang of Eight’s proposal — it would allow illegal immigrants to apply for permanent-residence status after eight years on probationary status, whereas the Gang of Eight’s proposal makes the transition from probationary status to permanent-residence status conditional on a yet-to-be-named commission certifying that the border is secure. That distinction is all but irrelevant in the practical realm.”

There were at least a dozen more examples of columnists and analysts making the same case.

Tensions flare between Sen. Rubio and the White House 

Sen. Rubio expressed great displeasure after the White House leaked its immigration reform proposal over the weekend, calling the plan “dead on arrival.” On Tuesday, Sen. Rubio issued another critical statement via his press secretary Alex Conant.

“Contrary to what the WH COS (Chief of Staff Denis McDonough) said on the Sunday shows, President Obama and the White House staff are not working with Republicans on immigration reform. Senator Rubio’s office has never discussed immigration policy with anyone in the White House. To be clear: That’s fine with us – we actually think Congress should write the policy; not the White House. But an honest question: If the Obama Administration is serious about drafting & passing its own immigration reform, why wouldn’t they seek input from any Republicans whose support they’ll need.”

The White House, however, challenges the statement, saying that they did meet with staffers from the Gang of Eight, including Sen. Rubio’s staff, to discuss immigration reform.

Later in the day, Sen. Rubio’s office admitted that staff had taken part in White House meetings, but they were never asked for input on the White House plan.

Rubio’s statement on Ag guest workers “Mostly False”

Politifact’s Truth-O-Meter rated Sen. Rubio’s comment on Jan. 30 that the United States does “not have a system through which growers and dairies can bring a workforce legally into the US” as mostly false.

The column highlighted the H-2A Ag guest worker program, which allows farmers to bring in an unlimited number of seasonal workers. Farmers must first prove to the Labor Department that they can’t find an available American worker, then they must apply through the Department of Homeland Security. Farmers must provide workers with housing, transportation, and other benefits, and must pay the prevailing wage.

The state of Florida, which Sen. Rubio represents, currently ranks 5th among states receiving H-2A visas.

Sen. Hagan opposes amnesty 

Sen. Kay Hagan of North Carolina joined with Republicans in 2010 to help squelch attempts to pass the Dream Act. In 2014, she’s up for re-election, so she will be pivotal in the immigration reform battle brewing in the Senate this year.

On Tuesday, Sen. Hagan said she opposed amnesty, but could be open to some sort of “path to citizenship.”

“I oppose amnesty, but a pathway to citizenship can take a lot of different forms,” she said. “It can look like a lot of different things.”

Sen. Hagan’s non-committal position is a result of the state’s labor needs, specifically in agriculture. Agriculture is still the top industry in North Carolina; it’s the nation’s largest producer of tobacco, and the second largest producer of Christmas trees. It also has large poultr,y pork, and fishing industries.

“What I hear from my farmers quite often is that we have got to find a workable solution so they can get the workers they need so they can continue growing crops in North Carolina,” she said.

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