- The Washington Times - Monday, June 3, 2013

Sen. Marco Rubio, one of the key authors of the Senate’s immigration bill, signaled Monday that he might abandon the bill if parts of it are weakened or if “improvements” aren’t made when it goes to the chamber floor.

In a video to his constituents, Mr. Rubio, Florida Republican, said he will oppose any “horse trading” by his colleagues to try to sway support, and said the bill’s fate rests on whether voters believe it will lead to better enforcement.

“Let me tell you, there will have to be improvements. Because the good thing is the American people, the vast majority of them throughout the political spectrum, have clearly said that they are prepared to responsibly deal with those that are here illegally. But they are only willing to do so if we can take measures that ensure that this problem will never happen again in the future,” Mr. Rubio said.

Mr. Rubio was part of a bipartisan group of eight senators who wrote the immigration bill, which calls for quick legal status for illegal immigrants but withholds a full pathway to citizenship until after the administration spends more money on border security and creates a national electronic worker-verification system.

Last month, while the measure was being debated by the Senate Judiciary Committee, Mr. Rubio said he thought the bill was solid but that he would accept changes if they were needed to win voters’ confidence that the government would enforce the laws.

One change he has said he wants to see is to create a biometrics-based system to check the visas of those entering and leaving at airports and seaports.

The proposal was defeated in the Judiciary Committee.

The immigration bill cleared the committee on a 13-5 vote, and is expected to reach the full Senate floor later this month, where all sides are expected to offer amendments that will test the durability of the deal Mr. Rubio and his seven colleagues reached.

That so-called Gang of Eight senators have vowed to try to defend the core of the deal against efforts to weaken or enhance it too much, saying they’ve struck the right balance between forgiveness for illegal immigrants and vows of stiffer enforcement to prevent a new wave of illegal immigration in the future.

Mr. Rubio will be a key figure in that floor fight, but immigrant rights advocates warned that he risks alienating Hispanic voters if he pushes for more enforcement.

America’s Voice, which is pushing for an immigration deal, said the linchpin of a deal is the path to citizenship.

Frank Sharry, the group’s executive director, said Republicans hoping to repair relations with Hispanic voters must not hold citizenship hostage to unattainable security conditions.

“The only way for the Republican Party to avoid the demographic cliff they are in danger of hurtling over is to share credit in passing immigration reform with a clear path to citizenship,” he said.

Mr. Sharry said the bill already includes a major boost in border security spending, which comes on top of a decade of higher spending that has led to a drop in the number of illegal immigrants being captured trying to cross the border.

But many lawmakers, including key Republicans and Democrats in the House, say spending money isn’t enough. They have called for the Homeland Security Department to produce a yardstick to measure the border security achieved by that money.

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