Florida's junior senator and one of America's most prominent Hispanic politicians wants to take the Republican lead on immigration reform. Getting out front of President Obama's campaign pledge to overhaul the system in his second term, Mr. Rubio is laying out his ideas for possible legislation.
His wholesale fix tries to
square—triangulate, if you will—the liberal fringe that seeks broad
amnesty for illegal immigrants and the hard right's obsession with
closing the door. Mr. Rubio would ease the way for skilled engineers and
seasonal farm workers while strengthening border enforcement and
immigration laws. As for the undocumented migrants in America
today—eight to 12 million or so—he proposes to let them "earn" a working
permit and, one day, citizenship.
Any overhaul, he says, needs to "modernize" legal immigration.
America caps the number of visas for skilled workers and favors the
relatives of people already here. "I'm a big believer in family-based
immigration," he says. "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."
He says the U.S. can either change the
ratio of preferences for family-based immigration or raise the hard cap
on people who bring investment or skills into the country. He prefers
the latter, noting that the U.S. doesn't produce enough science, math
and engineering graduates to fill the open posts in high-tech. He says
this number can be adjusted to demand: "I don't think there's a lot of
concern in this country that we'll somehow get overrun by Ph.D.s and
"The goal is to give American agriculture a reliable work force and to
give protection to these workers as well," Mr. Rubio says. "When someone
is [undocumented] they're vulnerable to being exploited."
"Here's how I envision it," he says. "They would have to come forward.
They would have to undergo a background check." Anyone who committed a
serious crime would be deported. "They would be fingerprinted," he
continues. "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." (Full story at WSJ)