Can the Immigration Bill Be Fixed? Marco Rubio Responds

Last night, I posted Why the Immigration Bill Can’t Be Fixed, offering five reasons in support of that conclusion. Today Senator Rubio’s office requested an opportunity to respond to my five points; we were happy to oblige. If you haven’t already read my post, you should probably start there. Here are the rejoinders from Senator Rubio’s office:

1. The word “comprehensive” isn’t in the title… I assume you didn’t mean that point literally, but it’s worth pointing out. In truth, our bill is really a couple of smaller bills combined; we dealt with each issue separately (enforcement; pathway to legalization; temporary worker, etc.), and did not negotiate one against the other since they are all unique issues. Marco would be fine with breaking up the bill and passing it as a series of smaller bills, but many fear that would result in Congress only fixing certain parts of our immigration system, while letting other — more controversial — aspects fester… As far as the legislation’s complexity, I don’t think the language in this bill is any more difficult to read than any other legislation that’s recently been introduced (although I’ll grant you that the issue itself is more complicated). But that’s also why we’ve insisted on having months of public review & debate — so that people can have plenty of time to read and understand the bill.

2. We actually do get rid of chain migration in our reform. We get rid of the existing family-based immigration system & replace it with a more merit-based system. No longer will immigrants be able to come to the US & then immediately start bringing their brothers, sisters, adult children, etc. This was a big concession by several Democrats (and, to be honest, some conservative religious groups aren’t too happy about it). If you think it’s the core existing problem with our legal immigration system, then you should support our bill.

3. We only included the triggers as a way to tie border enforcement to the pathway to citizenship. The Democrats didn’t want to tie the two together — they were fine funding more border security, but they wanted the pathway to citizenship to move forward regardless of whether or not the security actually worked. We said the pathway would only open up if the security & enforcement provision were actually implemented & worked. I guess you could argue that we should only beef up border security & internal enforcement and not do anything about the 11 million illegals living in our country, but I don’t understand the logic in that.

4. I’d disagree with your description of the discretion given to the Administration as “vast discretion”, but the waivers & discretion that we do give is worth closer inspection, and we’re looking to address in the amendment process.

5. Your 30 million number is simply not accurate. There are approximately 11 million illegals currently in the US, and many of them won’t be eligible for legalization (because they haven’t been here long enough, don’t pass background checks, can’t afford the fines, etc.) and will have to be deported. Those given legal status will not be able to use chain migration or anything else to bring family members into the US… And they will have to prove that they have an income above the poverty level & won’t be eligible for Federal benefits, so they will not be “an intolerable strain on our welfare system.”

When we give others an opportunity to respond, I always like to give them the last word, so I won’t undertake a rebuttal. We appreciate Senator Rubio’s willingness to engage on this issue, and the dialogue obviously will continue. For the moment, I will simply note that the issue of how the bill treats chain immigration is vitally important and plays a large part in any estimates of future immigration levels. This is something on which widely varying opinions have been expressed, but which ought to be objectively determinable, one way or the other. I will try to get to the bottom of it.

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