Reporting Tim Kephart
Legislative Session Coverage
WASHINGTON (CBSMiami) – The bipartisan Gang of Eight senators is set to reveal an immigration reform bill that has been crafted over several months and could determine the future plans of Senator Marco Rubio.
The legislation is set to be revealed Tuesday and would include a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million people who came to the country illegally or stayed longer than they were legally allowed. The pathway is expected to be tough to complete and will likely take years to navigate.
“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,” said Sen. Marco Rubio. “What we’re working on is a starting point. It is not the take-it-or-leave-it offer.”
The measure would put millions who are in the U.S. illegally on a 13-year path to citizenship, while toughening border security requirements, mandating that all employers check the legal status of workers, and allowing tens of thousands of new high- and low-skilled workers into the country with new visa programs.
Conservatives are not buying the approach offered by the bipartisan Gang of Eight and insisted that any reform plan that includes what some described as amnesty is dead on arrival for them.
“I’m not convinced,” said ultra-conservative Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions. “I know Senator Rubio’s heart is exactly right. And I really respect the work of the ‘Gang of Eight.’ But they have produced legislation … that will give amnesty now, legalize everyone that’s here effectively today and then there’s a promise of enforcement in the future.”
Rubio forcefully fought back across a plethora of Sunday morning news shows.
“If you are undocumented here now, if you are illegally in the U.S., that you can’t even apply for this until these plans are in place and they begin to implement them,” Rubio said. “And then you’re going to have to pay a fine. You’re going to have to pay an application fee. You’re going to have to pass a background check.”
But it’s not just fellow Senators the Gang of Eight plan is going to run into trouble getting past. In the Republican-led House of Representatives, a so-called Gang of Six is planning to throw up as much opposition as possible to kill any possible immigration reform bill.
The House Gang of Six includes Representatives Peter King (R-Ia.), Michele Bachmann (R-Minn), Lou Barleta (R-Pa), Mo Brooks (R-AL), Louis Gohmert (R-Tx), and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), according to the National Review.
The National Review reported the Gang of Six “might effectively stymie the Gang of Eight’s quest for a comprehensive package,” and that they, not Rubio, will “shape the debate, especially on talk radio and within the conservative movement.”
If Rubio does have presidential aspirations, as many pundits have speculated, then successfully moving the immigration reform bill through Congress will be crucial for him.
Latino voters went overwhelmingly for President Barack Obama and Democrats in the last two elections and are seeking an immigration reform overhaul. But, in the rush to try to win over Latino voters, Rubio can’t anger the more conservative wing of the Republican Party, which opposes immigration reform.
That’s the balancing act that Rubio will have to navigate going forward. As Taegan Goddard of The Week.com put it, “The formula is actually quite simple: Rubio isn’t going to be president unless Latinos start voting for Republicans in greater numbers. And Rubio isn’t going to be president unless he’s supported by the conservative wing of his party.”
Still, Rubio also left himself a way out if compromises yield an unsatisfactory bill. With an eye on a possible White House run in 2016, Rubio, a tea party favorite, has been careful not to appear weak on border security or create political problems among the conservatives who have great sway in picking the GOP’s nominee.
“I’ve been very clear about my principles of what reform needs to look like. And if this bill were … somehow to abandon those principles via the amendment process or what have you, certainly I wouldn’t support that,” he said.
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