Florida Sen. Marco Rubio has proposed a pragmatic amnesty-lite plan that would allow the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States to earn a pathway to legal residency (as opposed to a path to citizenship).
Rubio released some general points about his proposal Wednesday to the Wall Street Journal for a Saturday story -- a day after before Rubio spoke Thursday to the New York Times as it was reporting out a comprehensive immigration plan that President Obama plans to push. That Times story appeared Sunday.
Obama's plan would give illegal immigrants a pathway to citizenship. And it would be one big bill. Rubio, who says illegal immigrants should pay a fine and have clean criminal records, has called for a more piecemeal approach, although he told the Times that it's not a "line in the sand." He's working on at least three or four bills. Note: Rubio is not opposed to people earning citizenship once they're on the pathway to legal residency.
"Under Rubio's approach, qualifying undocumented immigrants would be given visas to stay in the US," spokesman Alex Conant said. "Then, after a certain amount of time and after doing a bunch of other stuff (like paying back taxes, etc.), they could then earn ability to apply for permanent residence, just like any other legal immigrant. They would have to get to back of line, but permanent residence is first step towards naturalization."
Just how this would all work is unclear. There's no legislation. That's a reflection of Washington's culture, which rewards talk more than action. Rubio is a good talker. Relative to that, Rubio's record as a doer is more wanting (but then he's in the minority and has been in the Senate for two years).
Meantime, Rubio has garnered favorable, national attention for his proposals in the past without having to provide anything on paper. So there's little incentive for him to change now. Also, putting something on paper before you build consensus is a good way to lose on an issue.