Florida Senator Marco Rubio, the Republican Party’s leading voice on immigration, says he and his colleagues will consider allowing some of the 11.1 million undocumented workers living in the U.S. to apply for green cards. But first, President Obama has to get serious about stopping the influx of new illegal immigrants. “The president’s bill fails to follow through on previously broken promises to secure our borders, creates a special pathway that puts those who broke our immigration laws at an advantage over those who chose to do things the right way and come here legally,” Rubio said in a Feb. 18 statement, after a draft of the White House’s immigration plan was leaked to the press.
The porous border has long been the Republicans’ main argument against reforming immigration laws. The last time Congress took up the issue, in 2007, it bogged down over the government’s inability to stop the flow of undocumented laborers. More than 850,000 people were caught trying to illegally cross the nearly 2,000-mile-long southern border from Mexico that year, and the number of Mexican immigrants living in the country illegally was at a 40-year peak, according to the Pew Hispanic Center. Even with the backing of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, President George W. Bush couldn’t persuade enough Republicans to support an immigration bill.