During a recent appearance on a New Hampshire television forum, Marco Rubio was asked to respond to the question:
Do you support a path to citizenship for immigrants who are in the United States but are here illegally?
Senator Rubio responded to the question in the affirmative, and took the opportunity to once again outline his plan for tackling the issue of immigration:
I do, but first we have to do two things. The first thing we have to do is prove to the American people that illegal immigration is under control. And today, that lack of confidence has made it impossible for us to make progress on immigration reform. So, the first thing we have to do is we have to pass real reform that secures the border, more secure than it is today. An entry/exit tracking system to prevent visa overstays. And we also need to create an electronic verification system for employers so that they can verify the people they are hiring are legally here. We need to put that in place, and show it to the American people and prove illegal immigration for the future, now, is under control.
After we do that, the second step is we must modernize our legal immigration system. Today, legal immigration is primarily on the basis of whether or not you have a relative living here. In the 21st century it must be based on what skills you have, or what you can contribute economically. After we’ve done those two steps, I believe the American people will be very generous but responsible about what you do with those that have been here a long time.
And I think the best approach is to have them come forward, undergo a background check, pay a fine for having violated our law, start paying taxes, and in return for all of that, they would get a work permit. That would allow them to work and travel legally in the United States. That’s the only status they would be allowed to have for at least a decade, and then, assuming that after a decade they’ve complied with all of that, then they would be allowed to apply for permanent residency—just like anyone else would, not through a special path. And of course, once you have permanent residency, depending on how you acquire it, within three to five years, you could apply for citizenship. That is a long path, but I do think it’s fair, and reasonable. But we can’t even get to that third step I’ve outlined until we’ve done the other two things first. That’s just the reality of the political situation we have in America.
Joshua Pinho works for American Principles in Action.