Immigration reform: Can Rubio sell it to the GOP?

Marco Rubio is pushing for the immigration reform bill, while wooing conservatives who oppose it.

Marco Rubio is playing a dangerous game on the immigration reform bill, said Manu Raju and Carrie Budoff Brown in The Florida senator is one of the bipartisan “Gang of Eight” senators pushing for comprehensive reform that would give legal status to 11 million immigrants—but at the same time, he’s “trying to woo conservative activists” who oppose the legislation. Rubio said this week that “95, 96 percent of the bill is in perfect shape.” But he has held back from explicitly supporting the Gang of Eight’s plan. The bill’s fate will be decided by Rubio’s amendment to tighten border security, said Greg Sargent in To succeed, he’ll have to satisfy hard-liners demanding statistical proof that the border has been effectively closed before any legalization process begins. Democrats, on the other hand, won’t support any bill that would block legalization if some arbitrary border metrics aren’t satisfied. Clearly, Rubio—a Cuban-American who has presidential aspirations—has “a very tough needle to thread.”

How much tougher can border control get? said the Chicago Tribune in an editorial. The federal government spent a record high of $17 billion on border enforcement last year, and illegal crossings are at a 40-year low. The Gang of Eight bill would spend an additional $6.5 billion on border agents and security measures. In addition, the reform legislation would create a long, steep path to citizenship, requiring immigrants here without permission to prove they can speak English, and to pay fines and back taxes—requirements that will take a decade or more to fulfill. But all that’s not enough for hard-liners like Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and John Cornyn (R‑Texas), who have proposed “unreasonable and prohibitively expensive” measures such as 6,500 extra border personnel, and a $25 billion biometric border-control system that would take years to develop. These Republicans’ real goal is to “kill the bill, not make it better.”

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