Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., outlined his proposals for immigration reform in an interview with the Wall Street Journal in a plan that is sure to upset some within his own party. But Rubio argues that immigration is an important issue to Hispanic voters, a voting bloc that the Republicans lost ground with in 2012.
"[T]he immigration issue is a gateway issue for Hispanics, no doubt about it. No matter what your stance is on a number of other issues, if people somehow come to believe that you don't like them or want them here, it's difficult to get them to listen to anything else," Rubio said.
The Republican Party's struggle with Hispanics in the 2012 elections was most glaring at the top of the ticket as Mitt Romney only received 27 percent of the Hispanic vote. Party leaders now admit that they have to do more to reach out to the growing demographic.
Rubio, the son of Cuban immigrants, said he would like to propose a "comprehensive package of bills", which would include increased access for high-skilled workers, such as engieneers and doctors, a guest worker program for low-skilled workers, including farm workers. He supports workplace enforcement and stronger border security.
But the real challenge revolves around what to do with the up to 12 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the U.S.
He says his plan for that group "is not blanket amnesty or a special pathway to citizenship." Instead, they would have to get in line to apply for legal status and adhere to challenging requirements, but no immigrant would have to leave return to their home country to start the process.
The waiting time for a green card "would have to be long enough to ensure that it's not easier to do it this way than it would be the legal way," he told the Wall Street Journal. "But it can't be indefinite either. I mean it can't be unrealistic, because then you're not really accomplishing anything. It's not good for our country to have people trapped in this status forever. It's been a disaster for Europe."
Potentially signaling a shift within the party, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., who was Romney's running mate last year and, like Rubio, is considered a possible 2016 presidential candidate, came out in support of Rubio's general proposal. On his Facebook page, Ryan wrote, "Senator Rubio is exactly right on the need to fix our broken immigration system. I support the principles he's outlined: modernization of our immigration laws; stronger security to curb illegal immigration; and respect for the rule of law in addressing the complex challenge of the undocumented population. Our future depends on an immigration system that works."