Feb. 17, 2013 -- A draft of a White House immigration reform bill leaked to USA Today on Saturday puts pressure on the Senate to deliver with its own package of comprehensive legislation.
The draft features an earned path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, so long as they meet certain requirements. Qualifying immigrants would be able to apply for a green card within eight years, according to USA Today. The bill also contains provisions related to border security and a mandatory system to make sure businesses check the work eligibility of their employees, USA Today reported.
On Saturday, a spokesperson for the Obama administration stressed that the administration bill was neither final nor an attempt to derail a reform effort by a group of Democrats and Republicans in the Senate.
"We continue to work in support of a bipartisan effort, and while the president has made clear he will move forward if Congress fails to act, progress continues to be made and the administration has not prepared a final bill to submit," White House spokesman Clark Stevens told USA Today.
Still, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), a leading voice in the Senate group working on a bipartisan bill, said in a statement that it was a "mistake" for the White House to draft its own legislation without seeking GOP input. As a result, he said, President Barack Obama's bill would be "dead on arrival in Congress."
"The President's bill repeats the failures of past legislation," Rubio said. "It fails to follow through on previously broken promises to secure our borders, creates a special pathway that puts those who broke our immigration laws at an advantage over those who chose to do things the right way and come here legally, and does nothing to address guest workers or future flow, which serious immigration experts agree is critical to preventing future influxes of illegal immigrants."
The draft obtained by USA Today did not include what will likely be an important and contentious part of any immigration reform package -- how to alter the legal immigration system to better handle future flows of immigrants. Such changes could potentially include the addition of a guest worker program or an expansion of visas for certain workers.
The exclusion of that section isn't necessarily surprising. The Senate working group, for its part, is hoping that labor unions and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce will be able to come to an agreement on how to handle future influxes of immigrants before drafting that part of the congressional bill. As of last week, the two groups said they were continuing to negotiate despite rumors that talks were collapsing.
Since winning reelection in November, President Obama has made immigration reform a top priority, and has made it clear that he'll take the lead if Congress fails to act. He told Univision in late January that he believed Senate could have a bill ready by March, and last week, he met with Senate Democrats to check on the status of the legislative effort.
Whether or not the White House leak was intentional, the administration is using the moment to send a reminder to Congress that the president could move forward on legislation in the coming months if a bill in the Senate fails to materialize.
"He [Marco Rubio] says its 'dead on arrival' if its proposed. Well let's make sure that it doesn't have to be proposed," White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough said Sunday on ABC News' "This Week." "Let's make sure that that group up there, the gang of eight, makes the good progress on these efforts as much as they say they want to."