On Saturday night, USA Today published a report based on a leaked version of a draft immigration reform plan by the Obama administration. The plan was immediately condemned by Republicans like Marco Rubio and Rand Paul. Central to the controversy is the Obama plan’s outline allowing undocumented immigrants who qualify to become permanent residents eight years after the plan goes into effect. Five years after getting permanent residence they could become citizens. In other words, sometime in 2026 the first undocumented immigrants covered by this earned legalization would be eligible to vote, and conservatives think this is way too soon!
Senator Rubio, whose power has been in decline since Tuesday night’s misstep in his State of the Union response, said that the Obama plan will be “dead on arrival” in Congress. He added:
“It fails to follow through on previously broken promises to secure our borders, (and) creates a special pathway that puts those who broke our immigration laws at an advantage over those who chose to do things the right way and come here legally.”
If conservatives hope to win over Latino voters, this is not the way to do it. Rubio is at the table with Senator Schumer on drafting Senate immigration reform legislation. He can head off a presidential initiative by working to complete a bipartisan bill by the beginning of March. Then Republicans and Democrats can take credit for moving our immigration laws into the 21st Century. But if no agreement is reached early in the next month, the Obama plan will move forward. It will gain widespread support among voters and its passage will be seen as a Democratic victory. If the bill fails, Republican intransigence will likely get the blame from most voters.
Voters are unlikely to see a 13 year long pathway to citizenship as a speedlane to “Amnesty.” Given all the qualifying requirements, most applicants will take close to two decades to complete the process. Conservative efforts to delay the pathway to citizenship even more is starting to look cruel to voters, whether they are Latinos or not.