The compromise immigration reform package hammered out between eight senators – four Republicans and four Democrats – was made public Tuesday, but Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., made the rounds Sunday speaking on seven different television shows, making a pre-emptive defense of the legislation. Here's a round-up of the top five arguments he made against common conservative criticism.
Conservatives opposing immigration reform often place "amnesty" – the idea that someone in the United States illegally would gain citizenship or an advantage over someone who followed the legal process – as their top criticism. Rubio said the "gang of eight" deal does not offer amnesty.
"This is not amnesty – amnesty is the forgiveness of something. Amnesty is anything that says do it illegally, it will be cheaper and easier," he said on Fox News. "It will be cheaper, faster and easier for people to go back home and wait 10 years than it will be to go through this process I've outlined."
Any plan should include provisions to secure the border first, conservatives argue, so as to prevent a flood of illegal immigration. Many, like Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., say the enforcement component needs to happen prior to any changes with the legal immigration system.
Rubio, pressed on the timing of the bill's provision, admitted new access to a path to legal immigration would be opened before certain security metrics in the bill were met.
"[But] it doesn't give anything, [only the] opportunity to apply," Rubio said on ABC's This Week.
Many anti-immigration advocates fear opening the doors to new immigrants will put a drain on federal resources with more people gaining access to welfare programs. Rubio told Fox News any illegal immigrants currently in the U.S. would be banned from federal benefits.
"They don't qualify for any federal benefits – no food stamps, no welfare, no Obamacare," he said. "They have to prove that they are gainfully employed, they have to support themselves so they'll never be a public charge."
Conservatives are also split on how to ensure illegal immigrants do not find employment in the United States. The current system available on a voluntary basis to businesses is called "E-verify," but some conservatives say using this system places too much of an administrative burden on businesses. Rubio said the immigration reform package would require all businesses to employ the system to provide a disincentive to further illegal immigration.
"You will not be able to find work if you are here illegally," Rubio said on CNN.
Reason For Reform
For some conservatives, it's not clear what reforms are necessary, other than beefing up border security to prevent further illegal immigration. But Rubio says that only lawbreakers benefit from the current system.
"The only people benefiting today are human traffickers and those hiring illegal workers and paying them less than Americans," Rubio said on Fox News.