January 20, 2013
Immigration, [Condoleezza] Rice added, was the “big issue.”
“Frankly, we sent some pretty bad signals around immigration. George W. Bush, John McCain, Jon Kyl, and Ted Kennedy had an immigration bill in 2007 and it failed. And I felt at that moment that that was the real missed opportunity. We’ve got to get comprehensive immigration reform back on the agenda.”
Praising Republicans, like Marco Rubio, who have been speaking out about immigration, Rice also made it clear that she felt certain components of the GOP platform, such as fiscal values, defense, federalism, and individual responsibility, were “widely popular among the American people.”
“But if you send messages that there are whole segments of the population that are not welcome, not only is it bad politics, but it’s bad policy because without immigration, robust immigration, we have the same sclerotic demographics of Japan and Europe,” Rice remarked. “The Republican party has both a political and a policy problem.”
“He’s doing an awesome job of bringing along conservatives and bringing along conservatives in the media,” said Frank Sharry, the founder of America’s Voice, which advocates for comprehensive reform. “He’s making enormous progress in making reform palatable to people on the right in a way that no one has before.”…
Critics of proposals granting legal status to illegal immigrants say Rubio’s blueprint is unacceptable, based on what they know. So far Rubio has only sketched out his vision in interviews and has yet to introduce legislation.
“We have some major issues with what it looks like he’s doing in some areas. This is not something we would endorse,” said Rosemary Jenks, director of government affairs at NumbersUSA, a group that opposed past efforts to pass comprehensive immigration reform.
“Mending course on immigration is a requirement for Republicans to be able to successfully engage Latino voters,” said Clarissa Martinez-De-Castro, director of immigration and national campaigns at the National Council of La Raza, a leading Hispanic advocacy group. “If they stay on the path they are on, they are on their way to political irrelevance.”…
“He has the potential to be a force for building the space in which Republicans are meaningfully considering resolutions to this problem,” said Martinez-De-Castro. “The expectations are high for his leadership on this.”
Mr. Rubio said he would seek to reorient the visa system to bring in more educated immigrants with skills in technology and science. As for the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the country, Mr. Rubio said, “We have to understand these folks are here to stay.” He added that most of them had not committed serious or violent crimes.
“The right way to deal with them is not amnesty,” Mr. Rubio said, “and it is not a special pathway to citizenship.” Instead, he said, he would offer a provisional legal status to immigrants who passed criminal background checks, paid fines and passed English and civics tests.
But, he said, “ultimately it’s not good for our country to have people permanently trapped in that status where they can’t become citizens.” After a certain period, he said, immigrants would be allowed to apply through the existing system to become legal permanent residents, a status that would eventually allow them to become citizens.
“There will be nothing done in my Senate [on immigration reform] without a pathway to citizenship,” Reid said in an interview with the Las Vegas Sun…
“We have spent a huge amount of money on border security, and both our northern and southern borders are more secure,” Reid said. “Frankly, Mexico is doing much better economically, and that has helped the issue a lot. We can’t build a fence of 3,000 miles because no matter how high we build it, they can build a ladder taller than that fence. So I think we have about expended our energy on border security.”
“I don’t have a solution for that question right now,” Mr. Rubio said. He said he would seek to relieve backlogs by speeding up green cards for immigrants already in the legal line, not by creating special pathways for illegal immigrants.
Mr. Rubio’s principles did not sound very different from outlines for an overhaul that President Obama has offered. And the senator, whose star is rising rapidly in his party, chose not to hammer on his differences with the White House.
Both Obama and Rubio swear up and down that their “path to citizenship,” as they call it, is not amnesty because those here illegally today would have to jump through a series of hoops before they obtained legal status. Both Obama and Rubio would require illegal immigrants to: prove they were in the United States for a lengthy period of time, undergo a background check, pay a fine, pay back taxes and prove they have learned English.
But even these minimal requirements would obviously never be enforced. Just imagine if a grandmother came forward, passed a background check, paid her taxes and fines but failed her English test. Would Rubio deport her? Of course not. As Rubio admitted above, no one is going to vote for you if you threaten to deport their grandmother.
Santorum also stressed that Republicans were ready to act on immigration.
“I think the Republicans are ready to do something on immigration,” he said. “You saw Marco Rubio’s plan which is pretty far down the road. It looks a lot like what President Bush put forward four years ago.”
And if the answer is “no,” i.e., that Rubio and Ryan don’t trust Obama to enforce whatever deal they manage to push through Congress, then why won’t we just end up with another 11 million illegal aliens a few years down the road?
This isn’t some nit I’m picking — it’s central to the whole concept of “comprehensive immigration reform.” If you trust Obama to do the right thing, then, by all means, endorse his plan for amnesty, as Rubio and Ryan have done. But if you don’t trust him to keep his word, if you think all his statements come with an expiration date, then there’s no honest way you can back his approach.