Feb. 20, 2013— -- Over the past few days, we've gotten an increasingly detailed look at President Barack Obama's immigration reform plan, with The Miami Herald posting the text of the draft legislation on Monday.
Republicans have reacted negatively to the leaked legislation. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) -- one of the main players in a Senate group working on immigration legislation -- ripped Obama for allegedly not consulting with GOP lawmakers on the bill. Other key Republicans working on reform, like Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.), joined the chorus attacking the president.
"He's had no communication with Republicans on the issue, unlike the previous four presidents that I've dealt with," McCain said Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press."
The Obama administration, for its part, denied the allegation that it's acting in a Democratic vacuum. "We have been in contact with everybody involved in this effort on Capitol Hill," White House press secretary Jay Carney said on Tuesday. To clear up perceptions of tensions between the White House and Republicans, went a step further on Tuesday, Obama phoned Sens. Rubio, McCain and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) to discuss immigration efforts.
"During the calls, which build on conversations that have taken place at the staff level, the President reiterated that he remains supportive of the effort underway in Congress, and that he hopes that they can produce a bill as soon as possible that reflects shared core principles on reform," the White House said in a readout of the calls provided to the press.
So aside from the opportunity to trade partisan barbs, does the scrum over the leaked bill really change anything?
On it's face, it shouldn't. Obama's plan is fairly close to what his administration cooked up in a 2011 framework for reform. And he has said for weeks that if legislation stalls in Congress, he'll introduce his own immigration bill. So no one should be surprised that the White House is formulating a plan of its own.
But some Republican strategists warn that interference from the president could upset the bipartisan legislative effort in the Senate.
"You have to think about what the previous presidents have done," said Mercedes Viana Schlapp, who worked as a White House spokesperson under George W. Bush. "Past presidents brought together both sides to handle these big and complicated issues."
Emily Benavides, a spokesperson for the Hispanic Leadership Network, a center-right group, said that she expected the Senate talks over immigration to go forward but that the leak makes it seem as if the Obama is trying to undermine those efforts. "Publicly leaking the memo doesn't help the situation though because it looks like the president is preparing for the Senate to fail rather than working with them to make sure that they succeed," she said in an email.
Obama press secretary Jay Carney denied on Tuesday that the document leak was "intentional," meaning that the White House did not mean to publicize its plans in order to provoke members of Congress to act.
Here are a few of the main points in the White House legislation, which is actually composed of three separate bills, according to the Herald:
- Path to citizenship: Under the bill, undocumented immigrants who meet certain requirements will be able to apply for a green card after a maximum wait of eight years. The wait could be less, however, if the line of legal immigrants waiting for visas is cleared.
- E-Verify: The draft legislation proposes making the employment verification program mandatory for all U.S. businesses within four years, meaning business owners would be obligated to check the work eligibility of employees using the system. The bill also calls for the creation of a "fraud-resistant" Social Security card.
- Future immigration: The draft bill obtained by the news outlets doesn't include changes to the future immigration system. Those changes could include increases in certain visas, like those for science and tech workers, as well as expanded guest worker programs, and are considered vital parts of any reform package. The administration has stressed that the president's bill is still a work in progress, and that he first and foremost supports the effort in the Senate.