GOP Sen. Marco Rubio (FL) agrees that Congress needs to pass immigration reform and has given numerous media interviews outlining his proposal to offer legal status to immigrants here illegally. “We just have to get this thing done for once and for all,” Rubio told the New York Times.
The potential 2016 presidential candidate has been meeting with conservative lawmakers to build support for his proposal. But in selling the plan to right-wing voters, Rubio places strict pre-conditions to providing legal status to undocumented immigrants and significantly downplays the component. On Wednesday, for instance, Rubio reiterated to conservative radio host and reform opponent Mark Levin that Congress must adopt stronger immigration enforcement — including border security — before offering work permits to undocumented immigrants:
LEVIN: I want to make it clear. You want operational security of the border, and you want enforcement in the workplace of existing law.
RUBIO: Let me tell you the problem with that. In the past, people say that, but then what happens is they go ahead and do the process of legalization, but they don’t do the security. One of the things is…the security component is a trigger. In essence, none of that other stuff with regard to getting in line and applying, none of that happens until we’ve been able to certify that indeed the workplace security thing is place, the visa tracking is in place, and there’s some level of significant operational control at the border.
While the Obama administration also has offered stronger checks to verify a worker’s citizenship or legal status, Rubio’s suggestion that the border needs to be more secure before immigration reform can be implemented is ridiculous. The U.S. spent $18 billion on immigration enforcement in the 2012 fiscal year, which is more than every other federal law enforcement agency combined, according to a report from the Migration Policy Institute. A record number of people continue to be deported under Obama, and net undocumented migration is at or below zero.
Instead of wanting to focus more money and resources on the border, it is time for Rubio and Congress to consider a permanent fix to the nation’s immigration system, including a pathway to earned citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants living here.