Rubio immigration reform proposal sees Congress in charge of border security
There's a lot wrong with the Senate version of immigration reform, but even one of its strongest proponents, Senator Marco Rubio, believes the section on border security is inadequate.
Rubio is shopping a proppsed amendment to the bill that would take the responsibility for border security away from the White House and make Congress responsible.
Rubio, a key member of the Gang of Eight, is shopping around a proposal to have Congress -- not the Department of Homeland Security -- write the border control strategy that would be a prerequisite for most of the other elements of reform. Rubio hasn't yet landed on specific parameters, but, arguing that Americans don't trust their government to get it right, Rubio wants lawmakers to craft the plan at the outset, rather than leave the details up to the Obama administration.
But already, reform proponents worry that the Senate supermajority is an elusive goal that could undermine the bill, particularly on border security.
"We are advocating for a strong and tight and effective a bill as possible. If that means we are targeting 62 votes, then 62 on a strong bill is better than 75 on a weak bill that looks like a special interest bonanza," said Marshall Fitz, a veteran of the 2006 and 2007 reform fights who now directs immigration policy at the liberal Center for American Progress.
Rubio doesn't see how the current version of the legislation gets enough votes to break a filibuster, let alone the 70-plus votes that Gang of Eight leaders want. Republicans view border security as a threshold issue, and many have told him that the requirements must be tightened before they can even consider backing the bill, Rubio has said.
"It's very simple. If we can come up with a plan that people have confidence in for the border, I believe we'll have immigration reform," Rubio said recently on "Hannity" on Fox News. "If we cannot, we will not, and we should not. I don't think it will pass without those measures in there. I just don't."
Rubio has often gotten his way in the Gang of Eight deliberations. Well aware that his continued involvement is critical to the cause of bipartisan immigration reform, the group has made a series of concessions that give him rhetorical, if not substantive wins.
Border security is only one deal breaker in the House. The other concern of GOP congressmen is the "Path to citizenship" that will be included in the Senate bill. A clear majority of Republicans in the House will not vote for a bill that contains any kind of path to citizenship, regardless of the time frame involved.
But it is not necessary for a majority of Republicans to back immigration reform in the House. Given a few Democratic defections, it is likely that less than two dozen GOP congressmen would be needed to pass the bill - that is, if Speaker Boehner even brings the measure to the floor.
And that's where enhanced congressional responsibility for border security comes into play. No one trusts Homeland Security to follow through on any meaningful measures to secure our southern border. Rubio's proposal would probably tip the scales in favor of passage in the Senate and may even convince a few border security hawks in the House to vote for the entire bill.
This raises the question for Democrats and the White House; how badly do you want immigration reform to pass? Democrats in the Senate may see Rubio's proposal as going too far and prevent it from being included in the bill. If that happens, immigration reform may not even make it out of the Senate.