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[WSJ] Marco Rubio: The Immigration Reform Opportunity

Posted 5/3/2013

The Wall Street Journal
By: Marco Rubio
May 3, 2013

Next week, the Senate will begin making changes to and, hopefully, improve the immigration-reform legislation I introduced with several colleagues last month. This part of the process is a chance to fix America’s broken immigration system and end today’s de facto amnesty for those who live here illegally. It will also show that Washington can work when leaders listen to the American people and invoke their wisdom in debates and legislative work.

In January, I outlined my principles for conservative immigration reform in these pages—principles that guided the drafting of this legislation. These include securing the borders; requiring all employers to verify their workers’ eligibility and severely penalizing them if they hire illegal immigrants; cracking down on legal immigrants who overstay visas; and modernizing the legal immigration system to meet America’s 21st-century economic needs for both highly skilled talent and guest workers to fill labor shortages.

To deal with the 11 million illegal immigrants who are already here, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 recognizes the reality that they are not going home. It offers them an opportunity for legalization and, potentially, permanent residence and citizenship—provided they pay fines, pass background checks, don’t receive federal benefits and wait in line behind everybody who followed the rules, among other requirements.

These principles are crucial for solving today’s illegal immigration problem and ensuring that it never happens again.

Of course, the details matter. Since my colleagues and I introduced immigration legislation, intense public scrutiny has helped identify shortcomings and unintended consequences that need to be addressed. Many concerned citizens have gone a step further and offered specific ideas to improve it. This kind of constructive criticism is a positive force that should always be welcomed in the political process.

I learned this firsthand when I served as speaker of the Florida House of Representatives. We sought input from Floridians on their most pressing concerns. Their ideas were solicited through events held all over the state called “Idea Raisers” and then compiled in a book, which served as the foundation of our legislative agenda. We took those ideas and turned them into bills, many of which eventually became laws.

That’s a good example of how the true wisdom of the nation rests not just with those who serve in our capitals, but with those who live in our communities.

Today’s “Idea Raisers” on immigration are happening 24/7—on the Senate floor, in broadcast media, in social media, in the blogosphere and in other ways. It is easier than ever for people to participate in the democratic process.

I’ve been listening to the voices on these platforms and taking notes about ways to improve the immigration-reform legislation. When I invited public input on my official website, some very good suggestions poured in there, too, that are likely to prove helpful.

Read the rest of the op-ed here.