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Could Rubio Ditch His Own Immigration Reform Bill?

Both sides still tussling over the details as mammoth legislation prepares to debut on the Senate floor next week.

by
Bill Straub

Bio

June 7, 2013 - 12:00 am
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Under the bill, illegal immigrants who have resided in the U.S. since Dec. 13, 2011, must seek provisional legal status that allows them to work but renders them ineligible for federal benefits. They must pay a penalty, taxes, and a processing fee and can only apply for permanent status after 10 years.

A new visa program for low-skilled workers would be developed and the Department of Homeland Security would be charged with coming up with a $4.5 billion plan to gain effective control of the porous Southern border with Mexico.

Rubio isn’t alone in expressing doubts about the legislation. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), who voted for the bill in the Senate Judiciary Committee, also said changes will need to be made before he can vote for it on the floor. Hatch, a key target for the bill’s proponents, has pledged to push several amendments intended to protect taxpayers from picking up the tab on illegal immigrants taking advantage of the nation’s social services.

“This bill needs more improvement before I’m ready to vote for it when the full Senate takes it up,” Hatch said. “I introduced a number of common-sense amendments that ensure American taxpayers aren’t on the hook for those wanting to become American citizens. It’s my hope we can add these amendments to what passes the Judiciary Committee today, and come up with a bill that myself, many of my colleagues, and the American people can support.”

Hatch intends to offer an amendment requiring undocumented immigrants to produce employment papers establishing that they have been paying the proper amount in federal taxes. Those who have shortchanged the government will be given an opportunity to pay back taxes. Those who fail will be denied an opportunity to take advantage of the path to citizenship.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who has expressed some support for immigration reform, intends to offer a laundry list of amendments even though several of them might serve as a poison pill for Democratic supporters of the measure.

Under what he is characterizing as his “trust but verify” amendment, Paul proposes that reform be conditioned first on Congress determining that the border is secure and that a border fence be completed within five years. The amendment also would provide new national security safeguards to track the holders of student visas and those provided asylum and refugee status.

Paul further intends to offer amendments that ensure that those in the country on work visas are prohibited from voting or gaining access to various social welfare programs, including Obamacare.

Some lawmakers, mostly conservatives, will oppose the legislation regardless of any changes rendered. Four of them – Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Ted Cruz, (R-Texas), Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) — distributed a “Dear Colleague” letter on June 4 to rally opposition.

“Americans expect their government to end the lawlessness, not surrender to it,” the letter read. “They deserve immigration reform with actual border security, enforcement of the laws on the books and a legal immigration system that works. We must welcome and celebrate legal immigrants, but S. 744 fails to deliver anything more than the same empty promises Washington has been making for 30 years.”

The last thing this country needs, the congressional quartet said, “is another 1,000-plus page bill that, like Obamacare, was negotiated behind closed doors with special interests. We want immigration reform to pass, but only if it actually fixes the broken system, rather than allowing the problems to grow and fester.”

The senators maintained the bill, among other things, provides for a form of immediate legalization for undocumented workers without first securing the border. It also “contains extremely dangerous national security loopholes,” creates no real penalties for illegal aliens and delays implementation of E-Verify.

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Washington freelancer Bill Straub is former White House correspondent for Scripps Howard News Service.

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