Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., was scheduled to appear on seven talk shows Sunday to outline his immigration overhaul plan.
(Photo: Susan Walsh, AP)
WASHINGTON (USA Today) -- Members of a bipartisan group of senators planning to unveil a sweeping immigration bill Tuesday blanketed the Sunday talk shows to begin explaining, and selling, what would be the biggest immigration overhaul in a generation.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., started the morning facing questions on FOX News Sunday about the portion of the plan that would allow the nation's 11 million unauthorized immigrants to apply for temporary legal status after the bill becomes law, and eventually let them apply for green cards and U.S. citizenship 10 years later.
Rubio said people who qualified for the temporary status would be barred from receiving federal benefits until at least 13 years after the bill is passed.
"No federal benefits, no food stamps, no welfare, no Obamacare," Rubio said, referring to the health care program pushed by President Obama that became law in 2010. "They have to prove that they're gainfully employed; they have to be able to support themselves so they never become a public charge. These are all the things that they're going to have to do just to keep that status."
Rubio also explained the extensive work that would have to be done to further secure the nation's border before any unauthorized immigrants can get legal status.
Under the plan, the Department of Homeland Security would have to certify that they are monitoring 100% of the southwest border with Mexico, and capturing at least 90% of the people trying to cross. If those goals are not met within five years, then a new commission would be established to oversee the department's efforts along the border.
Rubio said the E-Verify program, which lets business owners check the immigration status of new hires, would have to be expanded nationwide. And the country would have to establish a program to check every immigrant who enters and exits the country.
"(The bill) puts in place the toughest enforcement measure in the history of the United States, potentially in the world," Rubio said on CBS's Face The Nation, one of the seven shows he was scheduled to appear on Sunday.
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., one of the other members of the Gang of 8 senators who have been crafting the immigration bill since late January, said they knew it was critical to maintain a focus on border security to satisfy conservative politicians and voters.
"Every Republican at the table said, 'We've got to start with border security. Get that right and we'll stick around for the rest of the conversation,' " Durbin said on FOX News Sunday. "I think we've kept faith on that issue."
Other senators sounded skeptical about the immigration bill on Sunday, arguing that it amounts to a repeat of the 1986 immigration law that allowed up to 3 million unauthorized immigrants to receive legal status without securing the border to stop future flows of illegal immigration.
"So much of it is regaining the public's confidence that the federal government is actually doing its job," Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said on FOX News Sunday. "So until that confidence is restored, on the basis of what the legislation provides, I would have difficulty supporting it."
Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., was more succinct on ABC's This Week With George Stephanopoulos: "I'm not convinced."
Story by: Alan Gomez, USA TODAY