WASHINGTON -- Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) suggested Sunday that the bipartisan immigration reform currently being negotiated by eight senators would not constitute "amnesty" because the path to legal status it proposes would be more onerous than the standards under current law.
"They don't qualify for any federal benefits -- no food stamps, no welfare, no Obamacare," Rubio said during an appearance on "Fox News Sunday." "They will have to stay in that status until at least 10 years elapses ... and then all they get is a chance to apply for a green card." Anyone applying to stay in the country under the proposal would also have to pay an upfront fine.
Advocates of immigration reform emphasize that the existing system is filled with unreasonable barriers to entering the country legally, and impractical terms for bringing undocumented workers into society. One of the top goals for reformers is to make it easier for people already living in the United States without required documentation to become citizens. Some critics of the bipartisan negotiations currently underway in the Senate have noted that creating an official, long-term second-class status for the undocumented may create more problems than it solves.
Rubio rejected that idea on Sunday, defending the notion that obtaining a green card through a process created by reform should be more difficult than obtaining one through existing channels. Under current law, Rubio said, undocumented workers in the U.S. have to leave the country and wait 10 years before they can obtain a green card. Rubio also used the term "illegal aliens" to describe undocumented workers.
"What we have today is de facto amnesty ... people who are hiring illegal aliens and paying them less than American workers," Rubio said.
"If somehow being in the country illegally is cheaper, easier and quicker than the right way, I wouldn't support that," Rubio said. "It will be cheaper, faster and easier for people to go back home and wait 10 years than [go through] this process. That's why it's not amnesty."
Rubio reiterated that argument on ABC's "This Week."
"The alternative we've created is going to be longer, more expensive and more difficult to navigate," Rubio said.