If you haven’t seen it yet, the Wall Street Journal has a good interview with Sen. Marco Rubio on his plans to “modernize” the immigration system.
This is a big deal. As the Journal notes, Rubio “wants to take the Republican lead on immigration reform,” by “[g]etting out front of President Obama’s campaign pledge to overhaul the system in his second term …”
I don’t have to tell you this will require some political talent:
[Rubio's] wholesale fix tries to square—triangulate, if you will—the liberal fringe that seeks broad amnesty for illegal immigrants and the hard right’s obsession with closing the door. Mr. Rubio would ease the way for skilled engineers and seasonal farm workers while strengthening border enforcement and immigration laws. As for the undocumented migrants in America today—eight to 12 million or so—he proposes to let them “earn” a working permit and, one day, citizenship.
If Rubio were to pull this off, he would have a major accomplishment under his belt. It would be a “legacy” issue that might serve as a springboard to the White House.
But although there is opportunity here, this is still an act of political courage. We saw how Mitt Romney effectively demagogued the immigration issue in order to defeat Rick Perry and Newt Gingrich in the 2012 GOP primary.
So I asked a Rubio aide for some additional information that might help reassure conservatives. Here are a couple of points not directly addressed in the Journal’s column. According to a Rubio aide:
1. While in the legal status probationary phase, undocumented immigrants would not qualify for any federal assistance.
2. When they complete probationary phase, they get access to [the] existing legal immigration system. They must wait in line and must qualify for existing visa program (not a special one). They do not get a special pathway.
The hope is that Rubio’s common sense approach to what he views as a humanitarian crisis wins converts on both sides. If there was ever a time for two sides to come together over this issue, it might be now.