Leah Barkoukis

During his SOTU address, President Obama touched on broad immigration reform principles and commended the work bipartisan groups in both chambers are doing to draft a bill. His tone seemed to indicate he would let Congress take the lead on immigration. “Send me a comprehensive immigration reform bill in the next few months and I will sign it,” he said during the speech. But on Saturday, the White House leaked details of its own immigration proposal, which Sen. Marco Rubio has called “dead on arrival.”

A draft of a White House immigration proposal obtained by USA TODAY would allow illegal immigrants to become legal permanent residents within eight years.

The plan also would provide for more security funding and require business owners to check the immigration status of new hires within four years. In addition, the nation's 11 million illegal immigrants could apply for a newly created "Lawful Prospective Immigrant" visa, under the draft bill being written by the White House.

If approved, they could then apply for the same provisional legal status for their spouse or children living outside the country, according to the draft.

“If actually proposed, the president’s bill would be dead on arrival in Congress, leaving us with unsecured borders and a broken legal immigration system for years to come,” Rubio said in a statement.

"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," he continued.

“Much like the president’s self-described ‘stop gap’ Deferred Action measure last year, this legislation is half-baked and seriously flawed," Rubio said, adding that the proposal would actually make America’s immigration problems worse.

Rubio also took issue with the White House drafting immigration legislation without input from Republican lawmakers. “President Obama’s leaked immigration proposal is disappointing to those of us working on a serious solution. The president’s bill repeats the failures of past legislation,” he said.

So what is the White House really trying to accomplish by leaking this proposal? For one, this move could suggest that the president is dead set against letting Rubio, the rising star of the GOP, be the face of immigration reform and wants to direct the conversation instead. 

But the reversal of his hands-off approach could also mean he doesn’t want reform to happen just yet. Breitbart’s Joel Pollak weighs in:

Skeptics, however, continued to believe Obama would attempt to ensure that immigration reform would not pass, in order to continue using it as a political tool to drive Latino voters to the polls. That skepticism was reinforced by the fact that Obama had previously promised several times to take action on immigration reform without actually doing so. 

Now, Obama’s reversal on allowing the bipartisan negotiations to take their course, and his proposal for legislation whose policies are objectionable to the GOP, is a sign that he may prefer defeat to passage, at least until the 2014 midterm elections.

As NRO's Robert Costa noted in a tweet, "If reform is starting to die, defining who killed it will be impt to both sides."


Leah Barkoukis

Leah Barkoukis is the Managing Editor at Townhall Magazine.

Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography