Marco Rubio’s Immigration Plan is Bold, Pragmatic, and Comprehensive

Whether Marco Rubio is seriously considering a presidential run in 2016 the way many of us would want him to, his immigration plan should be taken seriously as a pragmatic answer to many of our problems.

The biggest political stumbling block will be on current illegal immigrants, not because he has a bad plan, but because so many demand a hard-line on deportation that we just don’t have the political capital to enforce, after losing an election, holding only the House, and facing a rising Hispanic demographic that threatens to become another 95% minority voting bloc for the Democrats.

From the WSJ:

“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.”

While many would rather see all illegals deported, I think this is a reasonable compromise. Too much of the problem with illegals in America is cultural – if Rubio’s plan makes some honest provisions for securing assimilation into our American culture (yes, we have one), everyone would be better off, and America would be strengthened by immigrants instead of being weakened.

The special regime he envisions is a form of temporary limbo. “Assuming they haven’t violated any of the conditions of that status,” he says, the newly legalized person could apply for permanent residency, possibly leading to citizenship, after some years—but Mr. Rubio doesn’t specify how many years. He says he would also want to ensure that enforcement has improved before opening that gate.

This could be a bargaining chip – the GOP should begin with a lengthier period and negotiate for passage of legislation with a moderate, but reasonable length of time implemented. That would give Democrats something to pat themselves on the back for, and buy into the legislation.

The waiting time for a green card “would have to be long enough to ensure that it’s not easier to do it this way than it would be the legal way,” he says. “But it can’t be indefinite either. I mean it can’t be unrealistic, because then you’re not really accomplishing anything. It’s not good for our country to have people trapped in this status forever. It’s been a disaster for Europe.”

I’m very impressed that he contrasts his plan with the deplorable situation in Europe where even legal immigrants are second and third class citizens. But he also recognizes the problem with equating illegals with those who applied for immigration legally – if you reward undesired behavior, you get more of it. This plan rewards those who followed the rules over those who didn’t.

Matt Lewis of the Daily Caller added further clarified this with a detail straight from Marco Rubio:

 When they complete probationary phase, they get access to [the] existing legal immigration system. They must wait in line and must qualify for existing visa program (not a special one). They do not get a special pathway.

Another issue many are concerned with is the economic impact of illegal immigrants, especially on the abuse of federal social welfare programs. Again via Matt Lewis: 

 1. While in the legal status probationary phase, undocumented immigrants would not qualify for any federal assistance.

This sounds great, but might be more complicated when we descend into the details – much of the abuse comes from illegal alien parents receiving benefits for their legal citizen children who were born here. Still, if this can be addressed well, it would go a long way towards mollifying some critics from the right.

Ed Morrissey  has a great summary at Hot Air:

The plan offers a number of “modules” that are very familiar, but in a new combination, or so Rubio hopes. It comprises:

  • Gain “operational control” of the border first
  • Enhance employment checks
  • Raise the hard cap on high-tech immigration
  • Create a guest-worker program for low-skill labor
  • A lengthy but not indefinite process for normalizing longer-term illegal residents

The last module will run into considerable opposition from Rubio’s Republican colleagues, who will insist that no amnesty be offered.  Rubio doesn’t see it as amnesty, but as a way to first identify the people who need to be deported, and then to eliminate the permanent underclass of legal-limbo residents. 

Ed Morrissey identifies immediate problems with the plan that I noticed too:

I’d like to see more detail… [on] the method of enforcing that and the commitment to deporting those with criminal records (other than that which attends their immigration status).  The method of certifying border security matters a great deal, too, of course, and the commitment from Democrats this time around to actually securing the border, rather than the double-talk Ronald Reagan got in 1986.  These are not mere details, but critical to the nature of the approach.

Overall, I like the plan a lot. I think it’s a great start, and Marco Rubio is very courageous in putting his neck out, knowing there are many out there just salivating to try to lop his head off. He will get push back from both sides, but I’m hopeful that some compromise is within grasp so that we can finally put behind us this issue that greatly drags on America economically and culturally.

 cross-posted at