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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Rubio to Obama: Executive action on immigration could 'close the door' to reform in Congress



Sen.  Marco Rubio wrote a letter to President Obama in advance of his expected executive action to legalize more undocumented immigrants.

Dear Mr. President:

As you know, last year I joined efforts in the Senate that successfully passed a bipartisan bill to address immigration. It was my hope that Senate action on this matter could serve as a catalyst for a humane but responsible reform that could ultimately achieve bicameral, bipartisan support. Instead, it led to the stalemate we now face on this issue.

After the experience of the last 18 months, I have become convinced that there is no realistic path forward on comprehensive reform for the foreseeable future. Instead, it is clear to me now that the only approach that has any chance of success is one that addresses our immigration problems in a series of sequential pieces of legislation.

The first component must address the problem of illegal immigration. The last year has made clear to me that many of my colleagues, and the millions of Americans they represent, are understandably unwilling to address the fact that we have over 12 million human beings in America in violation of our immigration laws, until we first do something to ensure that our immigration laws will not continue to be ignored.

The second component of this sequential reform would be a modernization of our legal immigration system. This would move us toward a merit-based system of immigration and provide a measured, predictable, reliable and legal flow of temporary workers, especially in agriculture.

It is my sincere belief that if we can bring illegal immigration under control and modernize our legal immigration system, then the American people and a majority of their representatives in Congress would be willing to reasonably and responsibly address the issue of millions of people currently in this nation illegally. It will not be easy. And it will not be unanimous. But if we can make real progress on stemming the tide of illegal immigration, I am convinced we will have the support necessary to address this serious issue once and for all.

All of this is why I have grown increasingly alarmed by news that your administration is considering sweeping executive action to give work permits to millions of people here illegally. If indeed you move forward on such a decision, I believe it will close the door to any chance of making progress on immigration reform for the foreseeable future.

Your decision in 2012 to institute the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was a major impediment to passage of the kind of immigration reform our nation needs. No matter what we tried to do to institute meaningful enforcement measures in the Senate bill, opponents pointed to DACA as evidence of your unwillingness to enforce the law. They argued that no matter what we wrote into law on enforcement, your administration would simply ignore it.

Furthermore, your pursuit of unilateral action in the midst of an election year, without any concern for the policy ramifications, has played a significant role in the humanitarian and security crisis that has been occurring on our border with Mexico.

That is not my opinion, but rather the opinion of the Presidents of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, who pointed to the "ambiguity" of America’s immigration laws – which DACA exacerbated – as having a direct impact on the immigration crisis we now see playing out on our borders. While it is true legally that those who are arriving are not eligible to relief under DACA, coyotes and human traffickers do not share the details of our immigration laws and policies with those they seek to exploit. In fact, data released by your administration, shows a consistent increase in the number of unaccompanied minor children crossing our southern border following the implementation of DACA. The arrival of more than 56,000 unaccompanied minor children through June of this year alone, and more than 74,000 since 2012, proves that many of them believe it.

I understand that you inherited a broken system created after years of poor decisions made by both political parties in Washington. But the cumulative result of six years of your administration’s approach on immigration reform is that, for all intents and purposes, America no longer has an immigration system. Instead, we have unsettling chaos.

I know you are receiving tremendous political pressure from certain activists to grant another unilateral, temporary and uncertain legal status to millions of additional undocumented immigrants. But to do so, without first taking any serious steps to address the border or protect American workers, will increase the perception of ambiguity in our laws, incentivize more people to immigrate here illegally, and significantly set back the prospects of real reform.

I, along with many policymakers, civic leaders and Americans of differing political persuasions, have spent considerable time and energy trying to fix our broken immigration system. I undertook this task because I believe our immigration system is in desperate need of reform. It saddens me that a nation of immigrants is divided by the issue of immigration.

At the heart of this issue are the people who are affected by it: the American worker whose wages are undercut by illegal workers. The rancher who lives in fear from the cartels and the coyotes. The brilliant young chemist who got her Ph.D. but can’t get a green card. The young mother risking everything to give her child a chance at a better life. The “dreamers” who graduated at the top of their class but face an uncertain future. The Border Patrol agent who brought diapers and formula from his home to care for the children that have been pouring over the border. And the men and women across this country who ask, “If Washington can’t get this right, can they get anything right?"

As someone who believes sincerely in the need for reform, is the son of immigrants, and lives in a community of immigrants, I still reserve some optimism that you’ll reject the politics of the moment and remember that the decisions you make will impact the people at the heart of this issue long after your duty to serve them has come to an end.

Most Respectfully,

Marco Rubio
United States Senator

[Last modified: Tuesday, August 26, 2014 10:50am]


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