Obama and Rubio Immigration Plans: What's the Difference?

Timeframe for citizenship: Rubio wouldn't say how many years undocumented immigrants should have to wait for a green card, but he said it "would have to be long enough to ensure that it's not easier to do it this way than it would be the legal way." He added that the wait shouldn't be "indefinite," either.

Pathway for DREAMers: Rubio said he favors a faster pathway to citizenship for young undocumented immigrants who meet certain qualifications. Earlier this year, Rubio was developing an alternative to the DREAM Act, a bill that would offer citizenship to undocumented youth who attend college or serve in the military. Rubio's alternative would have granted DREAMers legal status but not citizenship. The senator's efforts became moot, however, when President Obama circumvented Congress and used his executive power this June to allow qualifying DREAMers to stay in the country and work legally.

Workplace enforcement: Workplace enforcement appears to be a point of common ground in both early outlines for reform. Like the White House, Rubio believes there should be a national system to verify that workers are here legally, whether that system be E-Verify or something else.

Immigration backlogs: Compared with the reports coming out of the White House, Rubio has put forward a more detailed explanation of how he would change the visa system. His main goal is to increase the number of visas for highly-skilled workers. There are two ways that can happen: either changing the distribution of visas -- to have more for skilled workers and less for family members -- or by upping the number of skilled-worker visas. Rubio said he prefers the second approach. "I don't think there's a lot of concern in this country that we'll somehow get overrun by Ph.D.s and entrepreneurs," Rubio told the Wall Street Journal.

Guest-worker program: Rubio also supports a guest-worker program, and he spoke to the Journal about how such a program would be particularly beneficial to farmers and farm workers. "The goal is to give American agriculture a reliable work force and to give protection to these workers as well," he said. "When someone is [undocumented] they're vulnerable to being exploited."

It's important to keep in mind that these are just the early outlines of reform. The White House, for instance, hasn't officially announced its plans (although reform could surface during the State of the Union address).

Meanwhile, a bipartisan group of congressmen dubbed the "Gang of Eight" are working on their own bill. The group, led by Senators Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), haven't gone public with what will be included in their legislation beyond the core commitment to an earned pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S.

Sen. Schumer assured The New York Times that despite other legislative pushes, immigration is still a top priority: "This is so important now to both parties that neither the fiscal cliff nor guns will get in the way."

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