WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio has talked a lot about adding more border security to the immigration bill, but his first proposed amendment seeks to toughen an English proficiency requirement.
The proposed Rubio amendment would strike a provision which stipulates that the English proficiency requirement can be met simply by being enrolled in a course, Rubio's office said.
The bill, S. 744, requires that "a registered provisional immigrant who is 16 years of age or older shall establish that he or she (i) meets the requirements set forth in section 312; or (ii) is satisfactorily pursuing a course of study, pursuant to standards established by the Secretary of Education, consultation with the Secretary, to achieve an understanding of English and knowledge and understanding of the history and Government of the United States, as described in section 312(a)."
So Rubio would remove section (ii).
"On the day we announced the principles that would shape the immigration bill, we made it clear that English proficiency would now be required for permanent residency for the first time in American history," Rubio said in a release. "This amendment ensures that will be the case.
"Since the bill was introduced two months ago, the open and transparent process it has undergone has elicited constructive criticisms to improve it. This is one of the bill's shortcomings that came to light, which we can now fix."
Rubio and Sen. Bill Nelson joined an 85-15 majority vote Tuesday to proceed with debate on the immigration bill.
The "cloture" vote is not indicative of the bill's chances but does provide a sign of momentum for backers. Republicans and some Democrats still want to see more border security measures. Sen. John Cornyn of Texas is getting the most attention for his proposed amendment that would make a pathway to citizenship contingent on border security goals set in the bill.
"My amendment demands results, while the Gang of Eight bill is satisfied with just more promises, promises that historically have never been kept," Cornyn said Tuesday.
Rubio, a member of the Gang of Eight, is working on a proposal to put a border security plan into the legislation, rather than have the Department of Homeland Security do the work. Rubio contends there isn't trust in the agency to do adequate security.
Rubio's office said Wednesday that the amendment is not yet ready. The Senate will spend the next several weeks on the bill, with leaders hoping for a vote before the July 4 vacation.