There are a number of “shortcomings” in the Senate’s immigration reform bill that “need to be addressed,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said Friday in an op-ed.
Rubio said the bill, which he helped negotiate as a member of the Senate’s Gang of Eight, is a “solid starting point” but is in need of revisions to reflect the “constructive criticism” it has received since being unveiled to the public.
"Since my colleagues and I introduced immigration legislation, intense public scrutiny has helped identify shortcomings and unintended consequences that need to be addressed," Rubio wrote in The Wall Street Journal. "Many concerned citizens have gone a step further and offered specific ideas to improve it. This kind of constructive criticism is a positive force that should always be welcomed in the political process."
Rubio has been on a media blitz to sell the immigration bill to skeptical conservatives, but many on the right are unhappy with the bill — and the backlash appears to be growing.
The latest issue of National Review, an influential magazine in conservative politics, features a cover story on immigration reform with a picture of the senator and the headline, "Rubio's Folly."
In the op-ed, Rubio notes the criticism that has been lobbed at the immigration bill, and said the Senate has a chance to address the concerns that have been raised as the bill moves forward.
"For those who have suggested that the border security triggers outlined in the Senate bill aren't strong enough, we now have a chance to strengthen them," Rubio wrote. “For those who expressed concerns about giving the federal government too much discretionary power through waivers and exceptions in applying different aspects of the law, we have a chance to make clear exactly how the executive branch must enforce this immigration law and what the consequences are if it doesn't.
"For those concerned about the cost of immigration to American taxpayers, we have a chance to make sure the bill lives up to its promise that today's illegal immigrants are not eligible for federal benefits."
Other senators in the Gang of Eight have cautioned
against major changes to the legislation, which took months to negotiate and enjoys the backing of both business and labor.
“We have very little, little maneuver room,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a member of the Gang of Eight, said last week at an event with business leaders.
Rubio this week said the immigration bill couldn't pass the House in its current form, and suggested it might not have enough support to clear the Senate, either.
As the immigration bill goes through committee hearings, Rubio wrote, there is an opportunity to address the fear that the legislation makes it too easy for immigrants living in the country illegally to become citizens.
"And for those who believe the road ahead for illegal immigrants is too generous or lenient, Congress will have a chance to make it tougher, yet still realistic," Rubio writes. "No one has a right to violate the immigration laws and remain here with impunity. Finding a sensible way to resolve our illegal-immigration problem must include penalties that show the rest of the world that it really is cheaper, easier and faster to immigrate to the U.S. the right way."
Rubio also attacks "far left activist groups" that argue a path to citizenship is a "civil right."
"These groups view immigration reform as something that should quickly legalize as many people as possible," Rubio continues. "That idea — which is manifest throughout the current administration — has done more to poison the well of immigration reform than anything that restrictionist groups could ever manage on their own."
The junior senator from Florida ends the piece saying that his immigration bill is just a "solid starting point," but that conservatives cannot kill the legislation without having a better alternative.
"That would leave the issue entirely in the hands of President Obama and leave in place the disastrous status quo," Rubio concludes.
— This story was updated at 11:06 a.m.