Immigration Reform 2013: Marco Rubio's Last Ditch Effort to Save It

The Gang of Eight immigration bill passed in the Senate earlier this summer and is now stalled in the House. Marco Rubio isn't happy about it. "I believe that this president will be tempted, if nothing happens in Congress, he will be tempted to issue an executive order like he did for the DREAM Act kids a year ago where he basically legalizes 11 million people by the sign of a pen," he said.

President Obama's executive order was widely praised for stopping the deportations of young illegals who were brought to the U.S. as children. But his executive order also granted legal status (not citizenship, but a work permit) to any DREAMer who went to school and had a clean criminal record, all for the low low price of $435! It would be wrong to punish these kids for choices made by their parents. It would also be wrong to let them jump to the front of the line for work permits, ahead of people in other countries who applied for work permits so that they could immigrate legally.

What the order did not do, however, is provide these DREAMers with a path to citizenship. The Gang of Eight bill does just precisely that. A path to citizenship means a path to the right to vote. Since Hispanic citizens in the U.S. vote overwhelmingly for Democrats, a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants (most of whom are Latino) would mean an increase in Democrat voters. Obama has every reason to want this bill to pass. If the bill doesn't pass, then he's a second-term president with a history of using executive orders on the immigration issue. Signing off on a "path to citizenship" should be a no-brainer. A White House spokesman says that Obama has no intention of using an executive order in this situation. Given this president's track record, this may be the strongest indication that an executive order is forthcoming. 

The path to citizenship outlined in the bill is a 13-year journey involving fees, back-taxes, and filing requirements. Rubio has threatened that "a year from now we could find ourselves with all 11 million people here legally under an executive order from the president, but no E-Verify, no more border security, no more border agents — none of the other reforms that we desperately need." It is extremely unlikely that 11 million illegals would become citizens in one year. Rubio, of all people, ought to realize that government isn't that efficient. Remember, we still have "a backlog of more than 750,000 visa overstay records." There's no way that this government could process 11 million immigrant citizenship applications in one year.  

Rubio is wrong in thinking that this is a good bill. It would decrease illegal immigration by only 25%, and it does not require the government to hit any border security benchmarks before granting citizenship to formerly illegal applicants. The government gets to grant citizenship without first securing the border. That's a bad deal.

Rubio is right in that the bill does include additional border agents, which, although well-intentioned, may do nothing since this bill does not require the government to actually do its job and keep the border secure. The government already has a legal mandate to secure the border, and they're not doing it. What's to say they'll start now? Even though the border agents and e-verify requirements are weak, the bill is better off with them than without them.

I don't doubt that Obama would sign an executive order granting eventual citizenship to millions. He has already started blaming the GOP for not passing the bill (instead of blaming the bill for being a dud). For the House to pass a bad bill just out of fear of a unilateral action by the president would be to give in to political bullying. The House GOP needs to take its time and fix the bill. I just hope that the president will allow them that time instead of simply circumventing the legislative process by issuing another executive order.