Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida continues to fight for the historic bipartisan immigration reform bill he helped write, with several of his recent skirmishes coming with fellow conservative Republicans.
The bill is now on the floor of the Senate and in trying to shape it so that it will pass that entire body Rubio has had to spend much of the past week fending off amendments from fellow Republicans that would make the bill unpalatable to the Democratic majority and his fellow negotiators in the bipartisan “Gang of Eight.”
He’s also pushing for a more detailed plan on border security and has threatened to vote against his own bill if he doesn’t get that, a stance that has irritated some supporters of reform and led to protests in Florida.
Rubio has tried to explain his positions in a constant flow of press releases. When he has voted against amendments proposed by his fellow Republicans, he has let them down easy.
Tuesday he voted against an amendment proposed by Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., that would have required that 350 miles of new double-layer border fence be completed before any of the 11 million undocumented people in the U.S. receive provisional residency. While Rubio wants more detail to the border security sections of the bill, he is against any long delay in legalizing the majority of undocumented people. Democrats would also oppose that.
“I support Senator Thune’s efforts to require completion of double layered border fencing,” Rubio said. “However, his amendment does not detail a specific border plan. Therefore, I opposed his amendment and instead continue to work with my Republican colleagues to arrive at a new measure that improves on the significant border security measures already in the bill.”
Rubio also voted against an amendment by Sen. David Vitter, R-La., which would have required that, before the legalization process begins, immigration authorities put in place a biometric information gathering system that would affect all foreigners entering the country to ensure they leave when they should. Such a plan would also delay legalization, and, again, Rubio let his fellow conservative down easy.
“I also support Senator Vitter’s goal of requiring the implementation of an entry-exit system,” he said. “However, his amendment delays the process of submitting illegal immigrants to background checks and the imposition of fines for having violated our immigration laws. Therefore, I opposed his amendment and will continue working with my Republican colleagues to improve the entry-exit system measures in the legislation.”
Rubio also voted against an amendment by Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, that would delay legalization by six months to determine if the border were sufficiently secure.
All those amendments were defeated. Only a few Republicans, in most cases only the GOP members of the Gang of Eight, joined the Democratic majority. In each case, the outcome was anticipated.
While he has voted against those amendments, Rubio has penned some of his own. One would require undocumented people to learn English even to qualify for permanent residence – or a green card, as that status is popularly known. Proficiency in English is necessary to become a citizen but not for permanent residence.
He has also joined with Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, to write several amendments geared to attract Republican support. Those would block non-citizens from access to welfare or Social Security payments; make them ineligible for cost sharing or subsidies provided by the Affordable Care Act until five years after they become permanent residents; and that all provisional residents pay any back taxes they owe.