Thursday, May 10, 2012

Rubio faces conservative backlash on immigration plan

From: Orlando Sentinel

Even before he unveils the details, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio's compromise proposal to legalize the children of undocumented immigrants is drawing political attacks from the right and deep skepticism from the left.

The Florida Republican's plunge into the explosive politics of immigration has sparked admiration from some undocumented young people, who welcome his promised attempt to help them live and work here legally without encouraging more illegal migrations.

But politically, Rubio faces a minefield. Some of the harshest attacks came this week from conservative radio broadcasters who gathered in Washington from South Florida and across the country — in a radio blitz dubbed "Hold Their Feet to the Fire" — to demand tougher immigration enforcement at borders and work sites.

"I think it's a sham," said Joyce Kaufman, a West Palm Beach conservative talk show host about Rubio's fledgling compromise.

"I think Senator Rubio has been the victim of body-snatching by groups that would try to provide a back door to citizenship," Kaufman said between broadcasts. "He promised me in my studio that that wasn't going to happen. When he got to the national level, immigration was going to be controlled. He was going to stay firm.

"And here we are: He's on a short list to become VP because A) he's Hispanic, and B) he's designing a DREAM Act. I think it's outrageous."

Rubio, whose every move is scrutinized amid speculation that he will become Mitt Romney's running mate, is drafting a limited version of legislation known as the DREAM Act. The Cuban-American, whose grandfather once faced a deportation order and whose parents came here to build a better life, will influence this debate regardless of his prospects for the vice presidency.
Rubio's version, still taking shape, would provide nonimmigrant visas to many of those dreamers. He plans to unveil it by early summer after deciding who would qualify, based on their age at arrival, their current age and other criteria.

The big difference between Rubio's forthcoming proposal and the DREAM Act is that he would not provide a pathway to citizenship. He says he wants to allow high-performing young people to pursue their dreams and serve the country, but without rewarding illegal behavior.

"The question is: How do you do that without encouraging other people to game the system in the future?" he said in a recent interview. "And how do you do that in a way that doesn't lead to chain migration?"
While awaiting details, some dreamers are encouraged by his proposal.

"Any legislation that addresses the desperation of dreamers and immigrant youth across the nation on a day-to-day basis is worth entertaining and may be worth pushing for," said Gaby Pacheco, 27, an undocumented Miami resident who came from Ecuador at age 8 and became a stellar student.

"The first part is acknowledging my existence here, giving me the opportunity to continue my education, start giving back to the economy, become a special-education teacher and prepare to get my master's degree and Ph.D."
Immigrant advocates remain concerned that Rubio's compromise would potentially create a big group of second-class Americans with limited opportunities.

"We're not going to give up on the path to citizenship," said Frank Sharry, executive director of America's Voice, a leading advocate for the DREAM Act. "That [Rubio proposal] would mean kids who grow up in America and do everything right wouldn't be able to vote and wouldn't have all the responsibilities and rights of being an American citizen."

Though skeptical, Sharry gave Rubio credit "for making a good-faith effort to bring Republicans to the table."

But those outraged by illegal immigration say Rubio's proposal smacks of political opportunism.

"It can be seen as a kind of pandering going into an election cycle if you don't really grapple with the bigger problem," warned U.S. Rep. Allen West, R-Plantation, who stopped by the gathering of radio broadcasters.

West is pushing for tougher restrictions, including a requirement that employers check the status of workers through an electronic-verification system. That's the kind of talk the conservative radio hosts wanted to hear.

"I like Rubio. I liked him fine until this," said Heidi Harris, a radio host from Tucson, Ariz. "I want him to be stronger on the immigration issue. It's interesting now that he's getting a backlash."

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