The United States has an immigration problem. So does Marco Rubio. The GOP’s best hope of beating Hillary Clinton, Rubio needs to fix this.
The Florida senator continues to get hammered over his participation in the 2013 Gang of Eight immigration reform effort. Senators Ted Cruz and Rand Paul piled into the GOP presidential hopeful during the most recent Republican debate, reminding voters that Rubio had at one time championed a “path to citizenship” for people in the country illegally.
For conservatives, that path is paved with lost jobs and lower wages. Cruz, whose past advocacy for increased H1B visas has also come under scrutiny, has accused Rubio of favoring “amnesty” – a poisonous word linked to President Obama’s unpopular executive orders protecting millions from deportation.
If Rubio is going to win the GOP nomination, he must address this issue. He needs to satisfy the concerns of conservative primary voters stirred up by hardline rivals Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, while maintaining a position palatable to most Americans. Make no mistake – immigration is a live issue in the U.S. because of porous borders that are not only portals for illegal workers, but also potentially for terrorists.
The number of people crossing into the U.S. illegally is again on the rise. The Obama administration has encouraged the surge by reducing the detention time of women and children caught crossing the Rio Grande. Just as President Obama’s mini Dream Act in 2012 was followed by a tidal wave of Central Americans encouraged by reports of a more lenient immigration policy, so word of the reduced incarceration time is now enticing more immigrants.
Though in the fall illegal apprehensions usually decline, the number of people caught crossing the Rio Grande is soaring -- up 179 percent in October from last year, to 6,029. That represents a turnaround from the past twelve months, when the numbers fell sharply.
What can discourage this endless perforation of our border? We need a new plan. Rather than just punching back, Rubio should propose the following solution:
- Allow the 11 million people who are in the country illegally to remain, but prohibit that generation to become citizens. They will instead be awarded legal alien resident status.
- To discourage people from illegally entering our country in the future, we will eliminate birthright citizenship.
- Revise our immigration laws, and reduce the number of family members that gain automatic entry. Place a higher premium on admitting those immigrants whose talents and backgrounds suggest they are likely to make an economic contribution to our country.
First, let us concede that this country is not going to deport 11 million people. For perspective, note that we would need a bus caravan over 10,000 miles long -- almost 6 times the distance between El Paso and Canada. The concept is ludicrous, and not in keeping with this country’s values.
People who are in our country without papers must be accorded legal status, so that they can work “on the books” and pay taxes. That prospect should appeal to hardliners, who think that undocumented workers are driving down wages. Once out of the shadows, they will be subject to minimum wage and other laws that prop up pay.
But, since they entered the country illegally, these 11 million individuals should not be allowed the rights of citizenship – ever. Their children who were born on U.S. soil are already citizens, with all the rights attached; but not being allowed to vote is the price the parents will pay for having broken the law.
Indeed, one of the great lures to illegal entry into the United States is that any child born in the country is automatically granted citizenship, a policy embraced today by only one other developed country -- Canada. All European nations have abandoned the rule, because of its unwanted consequences. The policy was enacted when the United States was young and in pursuit of settlers. Its purpose, and the law itself, is out of date.
Not only does our birthright citizenship policy attract people entering the country illegally, it also fosters a thriving and unwelcome birth tourism business. Because we automatically welcome relations of citizens into our country, tens of thousands of families each year benefit from getting that invaluable passport, and then free education, welfare and retirement benefits. This practice must stop.
Finally, it is time to review our immigration laws with this underlying goal – attracting and keeping the people who will contribute to the growth and prosperity of the United States.
This is a balanced and reasonable plan that would be welcomed by those wanting solutions, and not just vitriol. To show just how the well has been poisoned, consider that the much-maligned Gang of 8 proposal that has so tarred Marco Rubio allowed undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. before 2011 to apply for "provisional" resident status (after paying fines and back taxes). Eventually those people would have the option of navigating a 13-year path to citizenship. Not exactly a slam-dunk.
Preventing the 11 million in the country illegally from becoming citizens should reassure Republicans that voter rolls will not suddenly turn blue. But make no mistake, over time the GOP will have to confront the growing presence of Hispanics, especially. If Republicans cannot produce ideas and policies that appeal to all Americans, from all backgrounds, then the immigration controversy will be the least of their problems.
And, in anticipation of the inevitable Democrat uproar, we note that none other than Harry Reid was among the first to propose ending birthright citizenship, in 1993.
Rubio’s background as the son of immigrants gives him the right – and the duty – to take a level-headed approach to this septic topic. This plan will allow him to get this monkey off his back, and become the GOP nominee.