Marco Rubio’s immigration game plan

Politics,Beltway Confidential,Conn Carroll,Immigration,Marco Rubio

After one full week of votes in the Senate Judiciary Committee, it is now clear that no major changes will be made to the Schumer-Rubio immigration bill before it reaches the Senate floor. The fix is in. The Republicans members of the Gang of Eight on the Judiciary Committee, Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Jeff Flake, R-Ari., have conspired with the Democrats to vote down any real changes to the original Gang of Eight plan.

Require 700 miles of fence before illegal immigrants are legalized? Voted down by Flake and Graham. Require a biometric visa entry and exit system, as recommended by the 9/11 Commission, before illegal immigrants are legalized? Flake and Graham said no. The Democrats simply will not allow any changes to the basic amnesty-first/enforcement-later structure of the bill.

This puts Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., in a bit of a bind since Rubio said before the Judiciary mark-up began, “The bill that’s in place right now probably can’t pass the House. It will have to be adjusted, because people are very suspicious about the willingness of the government to enforce the laws now.”

So how does Rubio plan to get new amendments added to the bill to make it appear as though it is tougher than it really is?

His office has drafted a list of problems with the bill, as well as ideas for possible amendments to address those problems. You can read the full list below. Sources on Capitol Hill tell The Washington Examiner that Rubio is not expected to introduce amendments on all, or even many, of the issues on the list.

Instead, Rubio’s staff is meeting with other Republican offices and using the list as a sort of menu of options uncommitted Senators could choose from to get some buy-in before final passage. Say, for example, Sen.Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, wants to vote for the bill but needs to have a conservative sounding amendment with his name on it adopted on the floor so he can tell his constituents he made the deal more conservative. Well an amendment that gave ICE more resources to “go after visa overstays,” might do the trick.

Some of the suggested amendment below would never be accepted by the Democrats. They want immediate legalization and an unimpeded path to citizenship or no bill at all. So Rubio’s solution number 6 below, allowing Congress to vote that the border is not secure thus halting the path to citizenship, would be a non-starter. But most everything else could be agreed to.

The full Rubio memo is below:


1. Concern: We should require that a specific amount of fencing be built, not give DHS latitude to decide how much to build as part of their border fence strategy.
Solution: An amendment to require at least 700 miles double-layered border fencing, with authorization for the necessary funding to do it.

2. Concern: An amendment to ensure that RPI renewals at the six year mark do not happen until the fencing security plans are substantially completed, as opposed to simply submitted.
Solution: An amendment to provide the means for ICE to go after visa overstays.

3. Concern: The exit system to crack down on visa overstays lacks enough teeth to enforce.
Solution: An amendment to require the exit system be implemented and operational at our land ports of entry, not just air and sea ports as the current bill does.

4. Concern: Achieving the prescribed border awareness/apprehension metrics of 100 percent/90 percent are not real triggers. Regardless of whether these targets are met, the path to a green card can proceed.
Solution: An amendment to eliminate or scale back the bill’s exceptions that would allow RPIs to apply for green cards if the border security and fencing triggers are not met.
Solution: An amendment to require that, if the 100/90 metrics are not met within the first 10 years, Congress would have to affirmatively vote that the border is secure before any green cards can be granted to the current immigration population.

5. Concern: Tying up the security triggers in litigation will effectively ensure we get the little security in exchange for granting legalization.
Solution: An amendment to tighten up the litigation exception that allows green cards to be granted by 1) only allowing for fast track court consideration of constitutional challenges to those security provisions; and 2) providing Congress the ability to intervene if the administration isn’t defending the constitutionality of those provisions.

6. Concern: The triggers are not specific enough and, therefore, DHS has no clear, mandated goals they need to meet.
Solution: An amendment requiring that the entire border (not just high risk sectors) be secured with either the 100% surveillance rate and 90% apprehension/turnback rate or the “operational effectiveness and other Cornyn bill metrics”. This will include:
• The determination that this has been achieved must be done 10 years after the date of enactment and must be personally certified by the President in office at the time.
• At the ten year mark, Congress would have the ability to override that decision by a majority vote of both chambers.
• Likewise, if President refuses to certify border is secure, then a majority vote of both chambers of Congress can certify that it is secured. Until this metric is achieved, people who are in RPI status will not be able to adjust to LPR status.

7. Concern: The path for illegal immigrants is too forgiving if they commit crimes.
Solution: An amendment to lower the grounds for ineligibility of RPI status from 3 misdemeanors or 1 felony to 1 conviction of any kind.
Solution: An amendment to detail what kind of misdemeanors cannot be waived.
Solution: An amendment to eliminate the ability for criminal record waivers entirely or detailing the kind of misdemeanors that cannot be waived.

8. Concern: This bill doesn’t do enough to prevent illegal immigrants from obtaining public benefits.
Solution: An amendment to make welfare fraud grounds for revoking RPI status.
Solution: An amendment stipulating that if you received welfare benefits or any other means tested federal public benefits when you weren’t supposed to as an RPI, you lose status and are subject to removal. To ensure enforcement, this amendment will require regular audits of the welfare rolls to make sure no one is defrauding the system in this manner.
Solution: An amendment stipulating that if you receive state or local welfare benefits, you are considered to have violated the public charge requirement and cannot move forward in the RPI process. This amendment will define what constitutes “state or local welfare benefits, so the regulations are not written by this or any future administration.”

9. Concern: There is an ObamaCare loophole for LPRs to be able to access it.
Solution: An amendment to harmonizing Obamacare and Medicaid eligibility for all LPRs. Current law says that you cannot qualify for general Medicaid coverage (non-emergency coverage) as an LPR if you haven’t been in the country as an LPR for 5 years. This amendment will simply clarify that a LPR cannot qualify for Obamacare unless they have been in the country for a period of 5 years.

10. Concern: There is too much leeway given to the federal government when it comes to granting exceptions based on hardships.
Solution: An amendment to the hardship exception languages so that it mirrors current law. The bill’s current language reverts back to language under the INA prior to 1996 where an individual could claim a hardship waiver by saying they themselves will suffer an “extreme hardship if removed from the country.” After IRRIRA was passed, in order to qualify for hardship exceptions, you had to show that you had a spouse, parent, or child who’s a citizen or LPR and that they would face an exceptional and extremely unusual hardship.”

11. Concern: The reauthorization of SCAAP contained in the bill is toothless without funding.
Solution: An amendment to provide SCAAP funding to help law enforcement and local communities that use 287g in prosecuting criminal illegal immigrants.

12. Concern: The public charge requirements are weaker for RPI’s than they are for green card applicants.
Solution: An amendment requiring the public charge requirements to apply when RPI status holders attempt to extend their status. Currently, the bill requires them to show that their average income is at least 100% of the poverty rate when they want to extend their RPI status; the amendment would raise it to 125% of the poverty rate. 125% is what we require under current law to show that you’re not a public charge and it’s what we require individuals in RPI to show when they apply for a green card; there should be no problem moving this to 125% and it will provide consistency across the board.

13. Concern: This bill contains hundreds of waivers and exceptions that give the federal government too much discretion in how it enforced the law.
Solution: Various amendments to eliminate the most objectionable waivers. For example:
• There is a waiver that allows someone who has been convicted of more than 3 misdemeanors to be able to adjust if they’ve committed more misdemeanors; not only should there not be a waiver for this, but the criminal grounds for ineligibility must be tighter and should only allow, at most, for 2 total misdemeanors per applicant.
• There is another waiver that allows people who were deported and then
reentered illegally to qualify for RPI- this section should be removed entirely.

14. Concern: The background check requirements should be more frequent because a lot can
happen in the span of years when RPI’s are currently required to appear before the government.
Solution: An amendment to strengthen the background check requirements by making
the criminal requirements more strict.
Solution: An amendment requiring RPI’s to submit to background checks when they extend their RPI status (every 6 years), or when they extend their employment authorization (every 3 years).

15. Concern: The bill has a slush fund for citizenship training classes – money that will ultimately go to left-wing activist groups. The government is doing enough for illegal immigrants by allowing them to remain here; we shouldn’t be paying groups like La Raza to do what the private sector and personal donations can do.
Solution: An amendment to remove the section on the Office of Citizenship and New Americans.

16. Concern: The bill won’t prevent RPIs from receiving one type of federal benefit: refundable tax credits.
Solution: An amendment to specify that RPIs do not qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit or other refundable tax credits.

17. Concern: The bill’s asylum and refugee criteria are eased significantly.
Solution: An amendment to eliminate recruiting and outplacement in the high tech sector, establishing tighter requirements to make it harder for companies to petition for nonimmigrant workers.

18. Concern: There are not enough protections for American workers in the high tech field.
Solution: An amendment to eliminate recruiting and outplacement in the high tech sector, establishing the F3 provision that allows the married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens to still come into the country so long as they are 31 years old or younger.

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