Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., is predicting that the new immigration plan backed by President Trump will be short-lived and that the sweeping proposal won’t pass the Senate.
“That bill’s not going to pass,” Rubio told CBS4 on Sunday. “I think the White House knows you don’t have 60 votes for that in the Senate.”
The RAISE Act, unveiled last week by Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., and Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., would slash green cards given to family members of U.S. citizens, reducing the overall number of legal immigrants accepted into the U.S. The bill also revamps how work-based green cards are doled out to a points-based system based on skills such as fluency in English and education level.
Rubio said that he supports a merit-based immigration system, referencing his role in the 2013 “Gang of Eight” comprehensive immigration bill that became a flashpoint in last year’s GOP primary. But Rubio said he refused to back an arbitrary limit to the number of green cards.
“I don’t want to limit legal immigration,” Rubio said. “I certainly want to change the way we conduct it because we are in an economic competition for talent. … I think the number [of green cards issued] should be driven by demand, by the economic demand.”
When CBS4 asked the senator what the bill would mean for people like his parents, who emigrated from Cuba as low-skilled workers, Rubio said that the demands of the 21st-century economy requires a different approach to immigration.
“When my parents came here in 1956, we had a very different economy,” Rubio said. “We had an economy that had a plethora of low-wage, low-skill jobs. That’s not the case anymore, and our immigration system needs to reflect it.”
The Florida senator has held several shifting positions on immigration reform. When the 2013 Gang of Eight bill failed in the face of conservative criticism, Rubio distanced himself from the bill as much as possible, saying in 2016 that it had been intended as a starting point on reform rather than as a law.
The RAISE Act has already faced backlash from Republicans and Democrats, including two of Rubio’s fellow “Gang of Eight” members: Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., and Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz.
“If this proposal were to become law, it would be devastating to [South Carolina’s] economy which relies on this immigrant workforce,” Graham said in a statement, noting that he still supports a merit-based immigration system.
Flake echoed Graham’s sentiment, saying in a statement, “We need to make sure we are responsive to the needs of our economy and I’m concerned that drastic cuts to the number of immigrants fails to meet that goal.”
The RAISE Act faces an uphill battle in Congress, where it would need to garner at least 60 votes in the Senate (which has a 52-48 GOP majority) to bypass a filibuster. Trump has pushed Republicans to end the legislative filibuster, but there doesn’t appear to be widespread support for that either.
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