The Washington Post

Citing Rubio’s ideas on immigration reform, White House sees hope for bipartisan deal

The Obama administration suggested Tuesday that there are signs that bipartisan cooperation might be possible on immigration reform, in light of some new ideas being championed by Republican Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.).

White House press secretary Jay Carney said that Rubio’s proposals to offer more visas to highly skilled tech workers and potentially provide legal status and citizenship to many of the nation’s 11 million illegal immigrants “bode well for a productive, bipartisan debate.”

“We hope that it signals a change in the Republican approach to this issue,” Carney said during his daily briefing, “because if we are going to get this done, it’s going to take more than just a handful of Republicans working across the aisle.”

President Obama has promised a vigorous push for comprehensive immigration reform — including a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants — early in his second term.

Rubio, a tea party favorite and potential 2016 White House contender, laid out his newest ideas in an interview with the Wall Street Journal last week. He insisted on tight border security and emphasized that foreigners who arrive legally must be treated fairly. But he split from conservatives who do not favor offering any legal status or citizenship to undocumented workers because, they say, it would reward people who break the law.

Find out all about the new faces in the 113th congress — sort by state, party, gender and chamber and see who was elected where and why.

Despite Carney’s modestly upbeat assessment, Obama and Rubio remain unlikely allies who have yet to have a discussion on immigration.

“There’s not much expectation that the White House will partner with Republicans on this,” said Rubio’s spokesman, Alex Conant. “They haven’t partnered with Republicans on anything. We’ve been working with our Senate colleagues on this.”

The ill will between Obama and Rubio dates to last summer, in the middle of the presidential campaign, when Rubio appeared to be moving toward unveiling a scaled-back version of the DREAM Act. Instead, the White House preempted the freshman senator by announcing in June that Obama would take executive action to halt the deportations of some young undocumented immigrants.

One week later, in a speech to national Hispanic leaders in Orlando, Rubio accused Obama of playing politics on the issue.

“I don’t care who gets the credit,” he said at the time. “I don’t. But it exposes the fact that this issue is all about politics for some people.”

On Tuesday, Carney said the White House is “encouraged” that Rubio’s thinking now “so closely reflects the president’s blueprint for reform.”

But Conant countered that Obama has not laid out his own proposals for a comprehensive bill.

Immigration reform advocates said the interplay amounted to early posturing for the debate ahead, with each side trying to figure out how far the other is willing to go.

Rubio is seen by many as a rising star in the GOP ranks whose personal story and influence among Latinos could help broaden the party’s appeal among minorities at a time when that population is growing quickly.

Hispanic voters largely supported Obama and other Democrats at the polls last year, and Republicans are eager to win back some of their losses. Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.), who was the GOP’s vice presidential candidate, has voiced early support for Rubio’s immigration ideas.

“We’re seeing a sort of tango with Rubio and Obama beginning on immigration reform, and they are each not sure yet who is leading and who is following,” said Angela Kelley, an analyst at the Center for American Progress, a progressive think tank. “I suspect until they figure that out, there will be some stepping on toes.”

For the moment, the gun-control debate has overshadowed the battle over immigration reform, and some advocates have said they fear that the administration could be delayed or sidetracked by that and by negotiations with Congress over the federal debt ceiling.

But Carney said Tuesday that the administration expects the immigration debate to begin in earnest soon after Obama is inaugurated Monday.

David Nakamura covers the White House. He has previously covered sports, education and city government and reported from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Japan.

The Freddie Gray case

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Campaign 2016 Email Updates

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Get Zika news by email

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!
Show Comments
The Democrats debated Thursday night. Get caught up on the race.
The Post's Chris Cillizza on the Democratic debate...
On Clinton: She poked a series of holes in Sanders's health-care proposal and broadly cast him as someone who talks a big game but simply can't hope to achieve his goals.

On Sanders: If the challenge was to show that he could be a candidate for people other than those who already love him, he didn't make much progress toward that goal. But he did come across as more well-versed on foreign policy than in debates past.
The PBS debate in 3 minutes
We are in vigorous agreement here.
Hillary Clinton, during the PBS Democratic debate, a night in which she and Sanders shared many of the same positions on issues
South Carolina polling averages
Donald Trump leads in the polls as he faces rivals Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz heading into the S.C. GOP primary on Feb. 20.
South Carolina polling averages
The S.C. Democratic primary is Feb. 27. Clinton has a significant lead in the state, whose primary falls one week after the party's Nevada caucuses.
62% 18%
Fact Checker
Trump’s claim that his border wall would cost $8 billion
The billionaire's claim is highly dubious. Based on the costs of the Israeli security barrier (which is mostly fence) and the cost of the relatively simple fence already along the U.S.-Mexico border, an $8 billion price tag is simply not credible.
Pinocchio Pinocchio Pinocchio Pinocchio
The complicated upcoming voting schedule
Feb. 20

Democrats caucus in Nevada; Republicans hold a primary in South Carolina.

Feb. 23

Republicans caucus in Nevada.

Feb. 27

Democrats hold a primary in South Carolina.

Upcoming debates
Feb 13: GOP debate

on CBS News, in South Carolina

Feb. 25: GOP debate

on CNN, in Houston, Texas

March 3: GOP debate

on Fox News, in Detroit, Mich.

Campaign 2016
Where the race stands

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.