Published February 17, 2013
Congressional Republicans on Sunday criticized a White House plan on immigration reform that allows illegal immigrants to become legal, permanent residents within eight years -- saying Congress will never pass such a proposal and questioning President Obama’s intent.
Kentucky Republican Sen. Rand Paul said the plan is untenable and so outside of what the country wants that it suggests Obama is not sincere about passing immigration reform.
“The president is torpedoing his own plan,” Paul told “Fox News Sunday.” “It shows me he is really not serious. … The bill won’t pass.”
The draft immigration bill being circulated by the White House also includes plans for a new visa for illegal immigrants living in the United States, as first reported by USA Today.
Obama's bill would create a "Lawful Prospective Immigrant" visa for the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants living in the country. The bill includes more security funding and requires business owners to adopt a system for verifying the immigration status of new hires within four years, the newspaper said.
On Saturday, Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio called the White House proposal "half-baked and seriously flawed."
Rubio -- part of an eight-member, bipartisan Senate panel working on an immigration reform bill -- also said the proposal was disappointing to those “working on serious solutions” and repeats failures of past legislation.
He said the White House also erred in not seeking input from Republican lawmakers.
"If actually proposed, the president's bill would be dead on arrival in Congress, leaving us with unsecured borders and a broken legal immigration system for years to come," Rubio said in a statement.
Obama Chief of Staff Denis McDonough said Sunday the White House is working with members and staffers of the so-called “Gang of Eight” and that the White House hasn’t proposed anything so far to Capitol Hill on immigration.
McDonough declined to answer repeated questions on NBC’s “Meet the Press” about why the White House didn’t first consult Rubio, consider the key Republican on the issue.
“We are doing exactly what we said we would do, which is we will be prepared in the event that the bipartisan talks on the Hill … do not work out,” he told NBC.
USA Today also reported that the bill would require that immigrants pass a criminal background check, submit biometric information and pay fees to qualify for the new visa.
Immigrants who served more than a year in prison for a criminal conviction or were convicted of three or more crimes and were sentenced to a total of 90 days in jail would not be eligible. Crimes committed in other countries that would bar immigrants from legally entering the country would also be ineligible.
Those immigrants facing deportation would be eligible to apply for the visa, the newspaper reported. Immigrants would be eligible to apply for a green card within eight years, if they learn English and U.S. history and government, and they would later be eligible to become U.S. citizens.
House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan took back the praise he gave Obama for his State of the Union remarks on immigration.
“Putting these details out without a guest worker program, without addressing future flow, by giving advantage to those who cut in front of line for immigrants who came here legally, not dealing with border security adequately, that tells us that he's looking for a partisan advantage and not a bipartisan solution,” The Wisconsin Republican told ABC’s “This Week.”
Last month, the group of senators announced they had agreed on the general outline of an immigration plan.
Obama has said he would not submit his own legislation to Congress so long as law makers acted "in a timely manner." If they failed, he said, "I will send up a bill based on my proposal and insist that they vote on it right away."
Paul also told Fox he will submit an amendment to the upcoming Senate bill calling for a General Accounting Office report stating U.S. borders are secure that must be periodically updated.
Clark Stevens, a White House spokesman, said Saturday that Obama still supports a bipartisan effort to craft a comprehensive immigration bill. "While the president has made clear he will move forward if Congress fails to act, progress continues to be made and the administration has not prepared a final bill to submit," he said in a statement.
Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum, described the draft bill as a "very moderate" proposal. While the path to citizenship was welcomed by Noorani, he said not enough attention was being paid to future immigration.
"Commonsense immigration reform must include a functioning immigration system for the future," Noorani said in a statement. "Reform does not begin and end with citizenship and enforcement alone."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.