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Clarence Page: Marco Rubio vs. an invisible President Obama

BY CLARENCE PAGE Published: February 22, 2013

Sen. Marco Rubio's manufactured outrage over President Barack Obama's leaked immigration proposal illustrates the current Republican dilemma: They have to sound like they're doing battle with this president even when they agree with him.

A draft of the White House immigration proposal leaked to USA Today says the administration would offer a new visa that would allow undocumented immigrants to stay and work in the U.S. legally for four years, with an option for an extension.

They could earn an eight-year window to apply for permanent residency if they learn English and U.S. history and pay back taxes. The proposal also calls for enhancements to border security and more immigration judges. Obama administration officials also have said the White House would only submit its bill if bipartisan efforts in Congress fail to produce anything.

But Rubio, one of the “Gang of Eight” senators working on a bipartisan immigration bill, did not hesitate to shoot the president's proposal down as “half-baked,” “seriously flawed” and “dead on arrival” if it is proposed to Congress.

That's curious since it is hard to make out a glimmer of daylight between the Obama proposal and Rubio's own stated positions. The main difference between their plans appears to be Rubio's enforcement trigger. Both plans call for border improvements, but only Rubio has demanded more border security before the citizenship program kicks in.

As he told Rush Limbaugh last month, “If, in fact, this bill does not have real triggers in there, if there is not language in this bill that guarantees that nothing else will happen unless these enforcement mechanisms are in place, I won't support it.”

Which raises a critical question: After all the millions that already have been spent on more fences, border guards and equipment, how secure do the borders have to be before Republicans are satisfied that they're “secure”?

Republicans in general don't want to open any path to citizenship for illegal immigrants until certain border security measures are in place — even though almost half of the nation's undocumented workers arrived legally anyway, according to a Pew Hispanic Center study, but overstayed their visas.

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