Immigration Reform 2013: Path to Citizenship Could Be the Deal Breaker

Though there seems to be bipartisan agreement over the need to reform our immigration system, a potential path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million undocumented workers who live in the United States could be the deal breaker of the ongoing negotiations. 

Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), one of four Republicans backing the Senate's bipartisan "immigration blueprint," emphasized the GOP's view of securing the border and cracking down on business owners who hire undocumented persons: "The mistake that's been made in the past is that while the legalization happened, the enforcement didn't, and it led to the 11 million people that are here," Rubio said according to Bloomberg

However, President Barack Obama, emboldened by a historic reelection fueled in part by the country's growing Latino population, says he's encouraged by the fact that Republicans have "dropped their opposition" to a much needed immigration overhaul.

But, according to Bloomberg, the White House plan doesn't emphasize security "out of concerns that a longer process could make it almost impossible for those immigrants to gain full status." The president also supports equal treatment of same-sex couples when one partner is from outside the U.S., a provision that will likely be opposed by Republicans. 

"We hope the president is careful not to drag the debate to the left and ultimately disrupt the difficult work that is ahead in the House and Senate," Brendan Buck, a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), said as cited by Bloomberg.  

And, in a sign that the bipartisan love fest over immigration reform may be short-lived, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) warned that though President Obama embraced the Republican plan, "he's not going to wait around forever to actually have legislation that we move on."

Senate Republicans don't want the 11 million undocumented immigrants to have a "preferential treatment" over those who came to the U.S. legally and are currently waiting in line for their citizenships. That's why they're insisting in tougher border security and employment background checks before even considering the so-called path to citizenship.

"This provision is key to ensuring that border security is achieved, and is also necessary to ensure that a reform package can actually move through Congress," Senator Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) said in a statement. 

So the challenge for Republicans going forward regarding immigration is not to further alienate conservatives who believe amnesty is not the way to go, given the nation's fiscal problems, and prevent further erosion of support among Hispanics and other immigrant groups who flocked to Obama during the 2012 election because of the GOP seeming anti-immigration rhetoric.

Weigh In: Should there be a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented workers who live in the U.S?