Friday, June 22, 2018
Politics

In Sunday show blitz, Sen. Marco Rubio presses immigration reform

WASHINGTON — Crushing any doubt that he stands behind a sweeping immigration reform bill, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio went on seven TV news programs Sunday and sold the legislation as tough on enforcement while "fair and compassionate" toward 11 million people in the United States illegally.

On ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox, NBC, plus Spanish-language Telemundo and Univision — a seven-show first for anyone — Rubio insisted the plan to be unveiled early this week does not provide "amnesty," seeking to blunt criticism from fellow conservatives as he played up more border security and the costly, 13-year process it would take for someone to become a citizen.

"It puts in place the toughest enforcement measures in the history of the United States," the Republican senator declared on CBS's Face the Nation.

Rubio is helping write the legislation with a bipartisan group of seven other senators but is the most crucial figure due to his clout in the GOP and his national profile.

He has sent mixed signals in recent weeks — partly to demand an open debate, partly to mollify conservatives — but Sunday's TV blitz made clear Rubio is ready to put his political capital on the line, even as he said he could still walk away if enforcement measures are weakened in negotiations.

It will not be easy. Asked on ABC's This Week if Rubio's sales pitch worked, Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., flatly said: "No, I'm not convinced. I know Senator Rubio's heart is exactly right. And I really respect the work of the 'Gang of Eight.' But they have produced legislation … that will give amnesty now, legalize everyone that's here effectively today and then there's a promise of enforcement in the future."

On Fox News Sunday, Rubio said the overhaul would not be a repeat of the last big immigration law, in 1986, which failed to stop the flow of undocumented immigrants: "This is not amnesty. Amnesty is the forgiveness of something. Amnesty is anything that says, 'Do it illegally. It's going to be cheaper and easier.' "

The bill would require people who arrived in the country illegally or overstayed a visa to pass a criminal background check, pay a fine and wait a decade to seek a green card. It would then take another three years for naturalization, making for a 13-year path to citizenship.

"You'll have to be gainfully employed, you won't qualify for any federal benefits and, then after all that, you don't get to apply for anything until the enforcement mechanisms are in place," Rubio said on Fox.

"We're not awarding anything," he added on ABC. "All we're giving people the opportunity to eventually do is gain access to the same legal immigration system, the same legal immigration process that will be available to everybody else."

The legislation provides at least $5 billion for more border security and would require 100 percent "awareness" at the southern border with Mexico and a 90 percent effectiveness rate. It mandates that all employers use an electronic verification system, phased in over five years, to check the legal status of workers.

Rubio repeatedly referred to "triggers" in the bill that would ensure enforcement is working. The first one would come six months after enactment of a law and require the federal government to create a border security plan and determine where new or additional fencing is needed. After those plans are certified, people can begin to apply for "Registered Provisional Immigrant Status," which would grant work permits.

But only people who have been in the country prior to Dec. 31, 2011, would be eligible. Verifiable documentation would be needed to substantiate physical presence before that date. Many of the fine details remain unclear.

The major trigger comes after a decade. If heightened border security, employee verification and a system to track when visa holders are supposed to leave the country are working, then people could apply for green cards.

"I am optimistic that we can get the votes to get this passed," Rubio said on CBS. "But it will be a long process, hopefully a very open process, and I think it will take some time, but I believe we can get there." The House is working on its own bipartisan version of an immigration bill.

On several shows, Rubio was asked to explain his own changing views. As a Senate candidate in 2010, he adopted the party's harder line on immigration, saying in a debate that "earned path to citizenship is basically code for amnesty." Rubio responded Sunday saying he is against "blanket amnesty," though past attempts at immigration reform also called for fines and other steps.

He was also asked how immigration reform would help or hurt him if he runs for president in 2016. "You know, I haven't even thought about it in that way," Rubio said on CNN. Host Candy Crowley replied:

"Seriously, senator?"

Comments
Hotel renovator approved by council to restore New Port Richey’s Hacienda Hotel

Hotel renovator approved by council to restore New Port Richey’s Hacienda Hotel

NEW PORT RICHEY — A seasoned historic hotel renovator and operator is going to take a crack at getting New Port Richey’s city-owned Hacienda Hotel back into action. New Port Richey City Council members, acting as the Community Redevelopment Agency, u...
Published: 06/20/18
Pope Francis criticizes Trump’s family-separation policy on migrants, says ‘populism is not the solution’

Pope Francis criticizes Trump’s family-separation policy on migrants, says ‘populism is not the solution’

VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis stepped into a growing controversy over President Donald Trump’s immigration policies, criticizing the separation of migrant families at the U.S.-Mexican border and saying that "populism" and "creating psychosis" are not t...
Published: 06/20/18
Raburn out in State House 57 race. Now who’s in?

Raburn out in State House 57 race. Now who’s in?

Well, that didn’t last long.U.S. Army veteran Michael Sean McCoy filed to run as the Republican candidate in the State House, District 57 race just hours after incumbent State Rep. Jake Raburn, R-Lithia, announced he was stepping down.McCoy, who live...
Published: 06/19/18
Updated: 06/21/18
Romano: A Tampa Bay ‘superstar’ caught in the crosshairs of Trump’s border policy

Romano: A Tampa Bay ‘superstar’ caught in the crosshairs of Trump’s border policy

At this moment, she is Tampa Bay’s most influential export. A smart, accomplished and powerful attorney making life-altering decisions on an international stage.But what of tomorrow? And the day after?When the story of President Donald Trump’s border...
Published: 06/19/18
‘Don’t leave me, Mom’: Detainee tells of separation from son

‘Don’t leave me, Mom’: Detainee tells of separation from son

SEATTLE — The call came at mealtime — an anonymous threat demanding $5,000 or her son’s life. So Blanca Orantes-Lopez, her 8-year-old boy and his father packed up and left the Pacific surfing town of Puerto La Libertad in El Salvador and headed for t...
Published: 06/19/18
Trump defiant as border crisis escalates, prepares to lobby House GOP on immigration bills

Trump defiant as border crisis escalates, prepares to lobby House GOP on immigration bills

WASHINGTON - As he prepared to visit Capitol Hill, President Donald Trump on Tuesday continued to insist that Congress produce comprehensive immigration legislation, while anxious Republicans explored a narrower fix to the administration policy of se...
Published: 06/19/18
Trump, GOP to huddle as outrage builds over border policy

Trump, GOP to huddle as outrage builds over border policy

WASHINGTON (AP) — Calls are mounting on Capitol Hill for the Trump administration to end the separation of families at the southern border ahead of a visit from President Donald Trump to discuss legislation.Trump’s meeting late Tuesday afternoon with...
Published: 06/19/18
Another detention center for immigrant children planned for Houston

Another detention center for immigrant children planned for Houston

Another facility intended for detaining undocumented children is reportedly in the works for Houston as the number of children separated from their parents at the border continues to swell.Southwest Key Programs, the same contractor that operates the...
Published: 06/19/18
Muralist working with huge St. Pete ‘canvas’ to create neighborhood eye-grabber

Muralist working with huge St. Pete ‘canvas’ to create neighborhood eye-grabber

ST. PETERSBURG — They appear to rise out of nowhere — two enormous, reclaimed-water tanks with an artist’s white clouds scudding across a blue background.A closer view reveals silhouettes of a lone coyote howling at the sky, mangrove islands, oak, cy...
Published: 06/19/18
FBI agent removed from Russia probe for anti-Trump texts says he’s willing to testify before Congress

FBI agent removed from Russia probe for anti-Trump texts says he’s willing to testify before Congress

The FBI agent who was removed from the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election for sending anti-Trump texts intends to testify before the House Judiciary Committee and any other congressional committee that asks, his attorney sai...
Published: 06/17/18