Quotes of the day

Rubio doesn’t back down. This is his moment. As the charismatic and articulate son of Cuban immigrants who rose to prominence as a tea-party ally, Rubio has a singular place in the conservative firmament, and he could likely hold onto that status for years with little effort…

Rubio is pleased with how receptive many conservatives have been to having a civil conversation about immigration, both on the radio and on Capitol Hill. “To do this right, this can’t be about politics, but about a process,” he says. “I was working on this, then I started to work with the group. Our principles aligned, and when people agree with you, that’s an opportunity you take.”

Another reason for the Republican calm, beyond Rubio’s charm offensive, is his ability to turn concerns about granting amnesty into a conversation about preventing amnesty. Rubio argues the president and many Democrats would likely encourage fewer conditions if Republican leaders weren’t involved…

Conservatives have not yet revolted, though there is grumbling on many conservative websites and on the radio. Rubio says he’ll keep reaching out, asking his fellow Republicans and conservatives to help him shape an unavoidable national debate. “Buy-in is important,” he says. “You can’t come up with something behind closed doors and then expect people to accept it.”


“This is going to be tough for Republicans and the recidivist elements in our party,” said GOP strategist Alex Castellanos, himself a Cuban-American.”It will all be fine until there is a GOP primary, say for president, and one candidate breaks out as the anti-immigration candidate and appeals to GOP fears and not hopes.”…

But, all of that doesn’t mitigate the political risk for Rubio in getting so far forward on the issue. In a November Washington Post-ABC News poll, just more than one in three (37 percent) of self-identified Republicans supported a “path to citizenship” for those in the country illegally as compared to 71 percent of Democrats and 59 percent of Independents who favored some sort of path…

“Senator Rubio’s path to the Senate provides some inoculation to the downside risk because he has ‘street cred’ with the coalition of the party that has the greatest concern about this issue,” said Rob Jesmer, former executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee and now a partner at FP1 Strategies.


During a March 28, 2010 Fox News debate against then-Gov. Charlie Crist, Rubio said: “He would have voted for the McCain plan. I think that plan is wrong, and the reason I think it’s wrong is that if you grant amnesty, as the governor proposes that we do, in any form, whether it’s back of the line or so forth, you will destroy any chance we will ever have of having a legal immigration system that works here in America.”

In a CNN debate on Oct 24, 2010, moderator Candy Crowley asked, “So your plan is that you’re going to close the borders, get the electronic system, fix the legal system, and then do what?” Rubio responded: “And then you’ll have a legal immigration system that works. And you’ll have people in this country that are without documents that will be able to return to the — will be able to leave this country, return to their homeland, and try to re-enter through our system that now functions, a system that makes sense…Earned path to citizenship is basically code for amnesty.”

The legislation Rubio backed Monday requires illegal immigrants to pass a criminal background check, hold down a job, pay fines and back taxes, learn English, and go to the back of the line – just like previous proposals…

“He took a right turn on immigration but he’s slowly coming back to where I think he’s naturally oriented,” said Marshall Fitz, direction of immigration policy at the liberal Center for American Progress.


So this time, Republicans, led by McCain and Sen. Marco Rubio, have insisted on provisions they claim will ensure the new system will be tough. “Individuals with probationary legal status will be required to go to the back of the line of prospective immigrants, pass an additional background check, pay taxes, learn English and civics, demonstrate a history of work in the United States, and current employment, among other requirements, in order to earn the opportunity to apply for lawful permanent residency,” says the five-page bipartisan proposal.

But the bottom line is, those who are here illegally now, unless they have some sort of serious criminal record, will be made legal on the first day the new law takes effect. So wouldn’t day-one legality be an incentive for more people to come to the U.S. illegally?…

Other GOP senators are equally skeptical, at least for now; don’t look for many to jump on board. “There’s no reason to embrace a five-page, notional product now, when the Judiciary Committee will almost certainly pull it farther to the left,” says another Senate Republican aide. “Everybody on our side wants Rubio to succeed, but I think a lot of members will think it imprudent to sign off on this so quickly.”


“It is not inevitable,” [GOP Rep. Lamar] Smith said on “The Laura Ingraham Show.” “I don’t think it’s going to happen for lots of good reasons.”

“This is nothing new, the same individuals who have been for amnesty in the past are for amnesty today. That shouldn’t surprise anybody,” he said, explaining he hasn’t seen a surge of new support for the idea “that we should legalize everyone in the country.”…

“I certainly do not see a majority of the House voting for mass amnesty and legalizing everybody in the country illegally.” Smith reiterated. “Maybe the House is going to be the firewall here but we still need to come up with ways to attract Hispanics to the Republican Party, but we can do that economically not playing in the field of the Democrats.”


One of the lesson’s we’ve learned from divided government over the past several years is that nothing at all gets done unless it absolutely has to. That’s been the case with the deals that have been struck to avert government shutdowns, raise the debt ceiling and avoid the “fiscal cliff.” But America’s immigration system falls into the category of problems — like entitlements — that should be addressed, but won’t be because there’s no date certain that they must be.

Whether or not lawmakers are earnest about wanting to resolve the issue, politically, all sides could live with doing nothing. Democrats would still be able to use it as a wedge issue and Obama could argue he really tried on immigration this time, but Republicans were simply intransigent. Conservative House members could go back to their districts and say they successfully blocked amnesty. Republicans like Rubio could argue that they really wanted immigration reform to happen, but Obama was simply unwilling to compromise to get it across the finish line. As long as all sides have fall back positions in the event that nothing gets passed, it’s hard to see how this survives the legislative meat grinder.


[G]ranting illegal immigrants legal status, while also denying them federal benefits but still promising citizenship in the future, Rubio will have made the Republicans political situation worse, not better. Greg Chen, director of advocacy for the American Immigration Lawyers Association, notes that the Senate bill calls for border security to “apprehend every unauthorized entrant.” “If that’s going to be the standard, that’s essentially an unrealistic, impossible standard to meet,” says Chen.

So either those granted legalized status will eventually get citizenship without border security, or they will be stuck in eternal limbo. “Is this citizenship in name only? If so, there is going to be some pretty dramatic backlash,” Mary Giovagnoli, director of the Immigration Policy Center, told The Washington Post.

Come 2016 Democrats will be more than happy to help immigrant communities direct that backlash directly at the Republican presidential candidate, whoever that may be.