Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., isn't getting support from Louisiana Republicans for his immigration legislation. (Jacquelyn Martin, The Associated Press)
WASHINGTON - Louisiana Republicans are pushing back at a comprehensive immigration bill proposed by four Democratic and four Republican senators, including Marco Rubio, R-Fla. They don't buy the enforcement provisions in the bill as either strong, or timely enough, and dispute the political premise that a new GOP approach on immigration is needed to avert a repeat of the rout Mitt Romney received from Hispanic voters in 2012.
Sen. David Vitter, R-La., joined Sen. Jeff Sessions, at a Capitol News conference, critiquing the so-called Gang of 8 bill in the worst possible light, "amnesty."
"We're very concerned that this bill is the same fundamentally flawed bill that model from the past," Vitter said. "It's immediate amnesty with a promise of enforcement."
Reps. Steve Scalise, R-Jefferson and John Fleming, R-Minden, echo Vitter's concerns.
April 26, 2013
"My concern is that the bill is much more focused on legal status for illegal aliens than it is on border security," Scalise said,.
Both Scalise and Fleming dispute arguments from some Republicans that the party needs to make peace with Hispanic voters, a growing population, if the party wants to win future presidential races.
Scalise said the Hispanic voters decide on candidates based on much more than immigration. He said the Republican Party should be seen as supportive of legal immigration and America as the land of opportunity,.
But he said that giving legal status to millions of Americans without first "securing our borders," as was done during Ronald Reagan's presidency, isn't good policy. Moreover, he said, the 1986 law didn't help 1988 Republican Presidential candidate George H.W. Bush gain a bigger share of the Hispanic vote.
Fleming agrees. "I don't see the correlation," he said.
Rubio, who is being mentioned by party leaders as an dynamic and credible GOP presidential candidate in 2016, is fighting back against opposition from members of his own party. On his Senate website, he and his staff have been posting a series of "myth vs. fact" reports.
Here's what he says about the amnesty allegations by Vitter and other critics of the Gang of 8's bill:
"This bill will eliminate today's de facto amnesty, in which we have 11 million illegal immigrants here and do not know who they are, what activities they are engaged in or anything else about them. Once the first security triggers are achieved, undocumented immigrants will be able to come forward, must submit to and pass background checks, be fingerprinted, start paying $2,000 in fines, pay taxes, prove they've had a physical presence in the U.S. since before 2012 and go to the back of the line, among other criteria. Criminals and those illegal immigrants who do not meet these criteria will be deported."
Not all Louisiana Republicans have come out against the bill.
Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, who is challenging Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., in the 2014 Louisiana Senate race, is reviewing the 844-page immigration bill.
"Dr. Cassidy has not yet finished reviewing this 844 page piece of legislation and does not know what amendments will be added," said a Cassidy aide. "He will judge it by its ability to secure borders and to address what is a pressing national issue."
During a Senate hearing last week, Landrieu, too, said she is evaluating the bill, noting that she's interested in learning the costs of implementing the complex legislation.
Vitter said the bill reminds him of past immigration bills that failed to deliver the promise of better enforcement.
"We tried that model before," Vitter said. "It failed miserably."
Rubio said the bill's detractors are missing the tough border security provisions in the bill.
Under the bill, Rubio said, the Department of Homeland Security must create, fund and initiate a border security plan, including a border fence, within six months of enactment, and must achieve 90 percent apprehension rates at high-risk border locations within five years of the bill's passage.
Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said the recent bombings in Boston, rather than, as some suggest, provide a reason to go slow on immigration, are really a reason to move forward.
"Immigration reform will strengthen our nation's security by helping us identify exactly who has entered our country and who has left - a basic function of government that our broken immigration system is incapable of accomplishing today," the two senators said.