Florida Senator Marco Rubio doesn’t think that the immigration reform proposal he helped write in the senate has adequate assurances that border security will become a priority with the Obama White House.
To fix that — and try to convince more Republicans in the House and Senate to vote for the bill — Rubio will offer an amendment to the bill when it reaches the Senate floor next week that will take the authority to develop border security policy away from the administration and give it to Congress.
Inadequate border security provisions is only one problem with the bill, and even giving Congress control of developing a plan to enhance our security won’t necessarily translate into more Republican votes for the measure. But Rubio is walking a political tightrope with his support for a bill that is very unpopular with many conservatives, and while his amendment may not pass, it places the Florida senator and probable presidential candidate in 2016 squarely on the side of border security proponents whose votes may be crucial in the House.
The Florida senator has long insisted that the bill’s border security provisions are not strong enough to win significant Republican support. He plans to introduce his proposal as the legislation moves to the Senate floor late this week or next.
As the legislation is now written, the Department of Homeland Security would be required to develop a plan to achieve effective control of 90% of the border with Mexico before immigrants in the U.S. illegally would be allowed to gain permanent legal status. Rubio’s emerging alternative would shift the responsibility for creating that plan to Congress.
“The problem is people do not trust this administration and the federal government in general to do the law,” Rubio said during a recent interview on Fox News. “Maybe the solution is to actually have Congress write that plan for them.”
Democrats are likely to look skeptically on any major border security changes in the bill, a delicately negotiated compromise that strengthens immigration enforcement while providing a route to citizenship for the estimated 11 million immigrants who entered the country illegally or overstayed their visas. But Democrats are also expected to try to accommodate Rubio to retain his support.
The bill is the most ambitious proposal to revamp immigration law in a generation; it would provide $4.5 billion for more drones, Border Patrol agents, fencing and other security measures on the southern border. Once a plan to control the border has been approved, immigrants could begin what for most would be a 10-year path to legal status. They would have to undergo background checks, pay fines and fees, and show they are financially stable. In 13 years, they could become citizens.
Congress can appropriate the cash, but as we have seen in recent years, the Department of Homeland Security pretty much spends it as they see fit. And how they view border security is vastly different than most Republicans ideas on the subject.
Clearly, more can be done to secure our southern border. All reasonable people in and out of congress know this to be true. The question is, are you more interested in pandering to an ethnic interest group or are you more concerned with our security? The administration falls into the former group, so Rubio’s proposal makes solid sense.
The president and Democratic senators have a decision to make: Do they want immigration reform or don’t they? As it stands now, passage of an immigration reform bill in the Democratic senate is iffy at best. Rubio’s amendment may upset some Democrats but would probably appeal to several more Republicans who could push the bill over the top. How the bill would fare in the Republican House is a different matter, even with Rubio’s amendment, but it certainly has a better chance with the Florida senator’s proposal than without it.