Will Conservatives Love Rubio's Plan Just Because He Hates Obama's?

Although Sen. Marco Rubio trashed President Obama's immigration plan, it is not clear what the major differences are between the two proposals, especially for one of Rubio's most important audiences, conservatives.

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Although Sen. Marco Rubio trashed President Obama's immigration plan, it is not clear what the major differences are between the two proposals, especially for one of Rubio's most important audiences, conservatives. Rubio declared Obama's plan would be "dead on arrival," "half-baked and seriously flawed" on Sunday, but the main difference between their plans is that Rubio has an enforcement trigger, meaning the path to citizenship for illegal immigrants won't open up until certain border security measures are in place.

Here's how much Obama's plan has in common with Rubio's plan, also called the "Gang of Eight" plan for the other senators involved:

  • Long path through bureaucracy to get citizenship. Obama wants it to take eight years. Rubio has described a difficult process, but hasn't said how many years it'd take, telling The Wall Street Journal, the period "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." Both require English classes, background checks, and for back taxes and fines to be paid. 
  • Some kind of legal status while working toward a green card. In Obama's plan, immigrants could apply for the Lawful Prospective Immigrant visa. After going through the requirements listed above, Rubio says, "Then most of them would get legal status and be allowed to stay in this country."
  • Citizenship for young people brought here as kids. In Rubio's plan, young people would get a faster track to citizenship. Obama has halted the deportation of these immigrants through executive order.
  • Expansion of E-Verify. Businesses would have four years to start using the system that checks if hires are able to work here legally under Obama's plan. Rubio also wants some kind of universal employer verification.
  • More visas. Rubio's plan would allow more high-skilled workers to get visas immediately. Obama called on Congress to pass such a measure in his State of the Union address.

What are the differences?

  • The order in which things happen. Both plans call for border security. But only Rubio's demands that more border security measures are in place before the citizenship program kicks in. Obama's plan "calls for an unspecified increase in the Border Patrol, allows the Department of Homeland Security to expand technological improvements along the border and adds 140 new immigration judges to process the heavy flow of people who violate immigration laws," USA Today reports. But there's no enforcement trigger. Last month, Rubio told Rush Limbaugh, "If, in fact, this bill does not have real triggers in there, if there is not language in this bill that guarantees that nothing else will happen unless these enforcement mechanisms are in place, I won’t support it."

But The National Review's Rich Lowry points out that Rubio's plan would give illegal immigrants probationary legal status before more enforcement was enacted. Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer, a fellow gang of eight member, said in a press conference announcing the plan, "On Day One of our bill, the people without status who are not criminals or security risks will be able to live and work here legally."

So why was Rubio so mad about Obama's pretty-similar plan? Talking Points Memo's Benjy Sarlin writes that Rubio's outrage over Obama's plan might be key to get conservatives on board with an immigration deal, because "Republicans he needs to win over to pass a bill will be a lot more comfortable if they think they’re somehow thumbing their nose at Obama by voting for it." But on Monday, there were signs that's not quite working.

Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions issued a press release on Monday saying, "Unfortunately, the leaked [Obama] plan is little different in its substance from the Gang of 8 plan, which is also unlikely to withstand scrutiny... Perhaps this leak, and what it reveals, may mark the beginning of the collapse of this new scheme to force through a fatally flawed plan." The Washington Examiner's Conn Carroll was not impressed either, asking, "What’s the difference between Obama and Rubio on immigration exactly?" The Daily Caller's Mickey Kaus thinks there's little difference. Iowa evangelical Bryan Fischer calls it the "Obama-Rubio amnesty plan."

Rush Limbaugh takes it a step further. It's not just bad policy -- he thinks Rubio has a political problem, too. Limbaugh is scared that Rubio and the rest of "our guys" will get tagged with unpopular immigration reform while "Obama gets his immigration plan in the mix without any of his fingerprints on it" by leaking it to USA TodayLimbaugh said Monday:

This is how the regime announces their big immigration reform plan?  On the other hand, how do our guys do it?  They call a press conference. They get whoever's involved in it: Chuck-U Schumer, Lindsey Grahamnesty, McCain, Marco Rubio, Gang of Eight. They're all up there. They do a press conference, all of them standing there, and you know it's these guys' plan...

This is how Obama is never tied to anything. This is somebody else's immigration plan... There's no picture of Obama. I mean, this didn't happen on TV so, as far as the low-information voters are concerned, it didn't happen.

You think they're reading USA Today?  Ha! 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.