The Gang of Eight’s immigration reform bill “will have to be improved” in order to become law, Senator Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) said Tuesday. Proposed border security and enforcement measures should be strenghtened, the federal goverment’s broad discretion to implement the law should be limited, and further action should be taken to address the bill’s potential costs to taxpayers, the Florida Republican argued in a statement.
The Senate Judiciary Committee is set to consider amendments to the legislation during a hearing on Thursday. Senators proposing amendments have until the end of the day to do so. (All amendments will be posted online here.) Critics of the bill will get their “first chance to make a good faith effort to improve the bill,” Rubio said, while reiterating his position that the Gang’s proposal was meant to serve as a “starting point.” However, he emphasized that the immigration status quo was unacceptable, and that doing nothing was not an option.
Rubio specifically cited strengthening border security measures as an example of how the current bill should be amended to address concerns. “The federal government’s failure to enforce the law in the past has left people with little confidence in its ability to do so in the future,” he said. ”That is why in order for this bill to become law, it will have to be improved to bolster border security and enforcement even further and to limit the federal government’s discretionary power in applying the law.”
Critics have argued that the bill’s border security component is insufficient, and gives the federal government too much discretion to decide how strictly to enforce the law. Polling suggests that most voters think strong security measures should be an important, if not primary, component of immigration reform, but are skeptical that the government would actually follow through on promises to secure the border.
Rubio also called for “additional measures…to address potential costs to taxpayers.” On Monday, the Heritage Foundation published a (widely criticized) study estimating that granting legal status to the current illegal immigrant population could cost taxpayers $5.3 trillion over the next several decades.
Rubio’s full statement:
Ending today’s de facto amnesty and fixing our broken immigration system is essential for America’s sovereignty, security, job creation, economic growth and preserving immigration as a source of our nation’s strength. Leaving the status quo in place would be disastrous.
Since I first engaged on this issue I have repeatedly said that the bill we hoped to produce would serve as a starting point. Since the immigration bill was introduced last month, we have heard from thousands of voices across America. Some, quite frankly, will not support any bill, no matter what changes we make. But most of the suggestions we have heard raise legitimate points and suggestions on how to improve the bill. The good news is that it is now clear that the overwhelming majority of Americans across the entire political spectrum are prepared to address the fact that we have millions of human beings living here illegally, so long as we take measures that ensure that this never happens again. In particular, most conservatives are ready to support immigration reform, so long as it takes serious steps to prevent another wave of illegal immigration in the future.
By mandating E-Verify and an entry-exit tracking system, and by investing over five billion additional dollars on border security, the current bill takes significant steps to prevent another wave of illegal immigration. But the federal government’s failure to enforce the law in the past has left people with little confidence in its ability to do so in the future. That is why in order for this bill to become law, it will have to be improved to bolster border security and enforcement even further and to limit the federal government’s discretionary power in applying the law. In addition, additional measures will be required to address potential costs to taxpayers.
Throughout this next phase of the immigration debate, we want to continue hearing from the public about how to get immigration reform right. For members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, this is their first chance to make a good faith effort to improve the bill. I look forward to working with them throughout this process to ultimately fix our broken immigration system and ensure we never repeat today’s broken mess again. What is not an option is doing nothing. Anyone who opposes this bill but fails to offer a real and specific alternative is in favor of the status quo. And the status quo is de facto amnesty.