Rubio vows tough, 10-year path to US citizenship
WASHINGTON, USA - Senator Marco Rubio, the Republican point man for immigration reform, said on Sunday, April 14, that a new bill would carve an arduous 10-year path to citizenship for the country's 11 million illegal immigrants.
Appearing on a string of Sunday talk shows, Rubio appeared keen to reassure hardline Republicans opposed to the idea of amnesty, promising a long and winding uphill climb to citizenship tethered to tighter border security.
Rubio, a Cuban-American seen as a possible 2016 White House candidate, said many immigrants would not qualify, and that those who did would have to pay taxes and fines and wait more than a decade before applying for citizenship.
Even then, the path to citizenship would be tied to a major increase in border security, a high-tech verification system to track individuals who overstay their visas and mechanisms to prevent illegal immigrants from working.
"For those undocumented in this country, not only will they have to wait more than 10 years, they will have to wait until those... things are fully implemented," he told CNN's "State of the Union."
"We're not awarding anybody anything. All we're doing is giving people the opportunity to eventually earn access to our new, improved and modernized legal immigration system."
"You won't be able to find work in the US if you are not legally here. That's why that 'e-verify' part of it is so important," Rubio said, adding that undocumented workers would be also barred from social and health programs.
Speaking to ABC News's "This Week," Rubio promised a process that "is going to be longer, more expensive and more difficult to navigate."
"It would actually be cheaper if they went back home, wait 10 years and apply for a green card," he said.
"In exchange for all of that, we are going to get the toughest enforcement measures in the history of this country. We are going to secure the border to the extent that's possible."
Rubio has been working with a bipartisan so-called Gang of Eight senators hoping to enact the most sweeping immigration reform in a quarter-century, with a Senate bill expected to be introduced as early as Monday.
Rubio said he was "very optimistic" that draft legislation would be presented soon, but that there would be a "lengthy process" in which lawmakers would debate and amend the bill.
Republicans long opposed to amnesty have softened their position in the wake of their defeat in the 2012 election, when the Hispanic vote swung overwhelmingly in favor of President Barack Obama's Democrats.
Senator John McCain, another member of the Gang of Eight who has said his fellow Republicans must address immigration if they hope to win national elections, said he was "guardedly optimistic" the reform effort would succeed.
"A lot of my conservative colleagues have significant questions, and they're legitimate. This is a start of a process," he told CNN.
Another bipartisan immigration bill is meanwhile being crafted in the Republican-led House of Representatives, amid public sentiment that appears increasingly to favor a comprehensive solution.
According to a March 21 survey, six out of 10 Americans support a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
The last major immigration reform dates back to 1986 when, with Republican icon Ronald Reagan in the White House, some 3.5 million illegal immigrants were granted amnesty.
The United States currently deports about 400,000 people annually. - Rappler.com