After weeks of playing hard to get, Republican Marco Rubio is now going steady with the Senate’s “Gang of Eight” immigration plan, and is using his star power as a GOP darling to seal the deal.
The Florida senator previously stalled negotiations on a deal, calling for the Senate Judiciary Committee to debate reform in a series of hearings on the Hill. But in a turn, Rubio transitioned from toeing the waters to jumping in. Rubio toured seven Sunday TV appearances—five network political talk shows and two Spanish-language programs—for his sudden all-in deal to promote a plan that he says is “no special path” to citizenship for the over 11 million undocumented immigrants living in America.
“This is not amnesty. Amnesty is the forgiveness of something. Amnesty is anything that says ‘do it illegally, it’ll be cheaper and easier,’” the Tea Party favorite told Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace.
Throughout the morning, Rubio repeatedly refuted any claims that the Gang of Eight plan provided “amnesty” to immigrants already living in the states. Rubio said that in order to simply qualify for an application for citizenship, immigrants are required to first pay fines, pass background checks, pay back-taxes, and hold a steady job. The process would take more than 10 years, he said, before immigrants would be qualified to set the wheels in motion on a path to becoming a U.S. citizen. While they wait, immigrants allowed to stay in the U.S. would only have their status provisionally, and would not be qualified for any government programs.
“They don’t qualify for any federal benefits—this is an important point—no federal benefits, no food stamps, no welfare, no Obamacare,” Rubio told Fox News.
Rubio suggested that self-deportation would be the swiftest path for immigrants already living in the U.S. The Gang of Eight plan hinges a path to citizenship on stricter U.S. border security, meaning immigrants will be given access to apply for citizenship from within the U.S. “only if the border security targets have been met” and “full E-Verify systems have been implemented.”
“It will be cheaper, faster and easier for people to go back home and wait 10 years than it will be to go through the process that I just outlined,” Rubio said.