Rubio Says Citizenship in U.S. Immigration Revamp Isn’t Amnesty

Millions of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. should be allowed to earn their citizenship because deporting them isn’t realistic, said Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio.

Rubio, who has emerged as a leading supporter of revamping U.S. immigration laws, spoke yesterday on all five Sunday talk shows to defend a bipartisan proposal expected to be introduced this week in the Senate.

Rubio, speaking on NBC’s “Meet the Press” program, rejected arguments that the proposal would amount to amnesty for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S.

“It’s not amnesty because you pay serious consequences for having violated the law,” Rubio said. “If someone believes we can round them up and deport them, they should advocate that. I don’t think that’s a reasonable goal.”

The plan would allow undocumented immigrants to remain and work in the country if they meet certain requirements and apply for permanent residency -- or a green card -- after 10 years, Rubio said. They could apply for citizenship after receiving their green cards, he said.

A group of eight senators has resolved “every significant disagreement” when it comes to immigration reform and plans to introduce a bill tomorrow, Senator Charles Schumer, a Democrat from New York, said on ABC’s “This Week” program.

‘Major Agreement’

“I think you’ll see a major agreement, that’s balanced but fair, that will have the widespread support of the American people,” Schumer, one of the group of eight, said yesterday on ABC’s “This Week” program. “This is a balanced approach that both prevents future waves of illegal immigration, but has common-sense solutions.”

After being introduced, the bill will be subjected to hearings and negotiations as lawmakers and President Barack Obama’s administration attempt to craft a major overhaul of U.S. immigration laws for the first time in nearly three decades.

Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told reporters last week he expects to review the proposal at an April 17 hearing.

A series of security “triggers” must be met before undocumented immigrants can begin applying for green cards, including tougher border security and the creation of a nationwide worker verification system, Rubio said. The government also must create an electronic system to verify whether foreigners have overstayed their visas, Rubio said.

Cheaper, Faster

“It will be cheaper, faster and easier for people to go back home and wait 10 years than it will be to go through this process that I’ve outlined,” Rubio said during an appearance on the “Fox News Sunday” program. “That’s why it’s not amnesty.”

Undocumented immigrants would be granted temporary work permits to remain in the country for the 10 years before they could apply for green cards under the plan, Rubio said.

The temporary work permits would be available as soon as the U.S. Department of Homeland Security establishes a plan to secure the nation’s borders.

Undocumented immigrants would have to pass background checks and pay fines and application fees in order to receive a temporary work permit, Rubio said. They wouldn’t qualify for federal benefits, such as welfare, under the temporary permits, Rubio said.

‘Not Convinced’

Alabama Republican Senator Jeff Sessions said on ABC’s “This Week” that he’s “not convinced” the immigration proposal is good for the country.

It “will give amnesty now, legalize everyone that’s here effectively today and then there’s a promise of enforcement in the future,” said Sessions, the top Republican on the Senate Budget Committee.

“Even if you pass laws today that appear to be effective, it doesn’t mean they’re going to be enforced,” Sessions said.

Texas Republican Senator John Cornyn said on “Fox News Sunday” he would find it difficult to support giving temporary legal status to those in the country illegally until public confidence is restored in the government’s ability to secure the nation’s borders.

The White House disagrees with senators on the need for enforcement triggers, Rubio said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” The difference must be resolved before immigration reform legislation can be signed into law.

Regardless, Rubio said he’s optimistic the Senate will pass an immigration reform bill this year.

“If enforcement is not a part of this, and if we don’t modernize legal immigration, if we don’t do all these things, then we’re going to be right back here in 10 years having this conversation all over again,” Rubio said. “And that would be the worst possible outcome.”

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.