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Rubio Criticized for English Requirement for Immigrants

PHOTO: Sen. Marco Rubio is being criticized by the same people who supported him for immigration reform. Courtesy:
PHOTO: Sen. Marco Rubio is being criticized by the same people who supported him for immigration reform. Courtesy:
June 19, 2013

MIAMI - Advocates for immigration reform in Florida who have stood by U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., are doing a double-take this week, after the "Gang of Eight" member proposed an amendment to his own immigration bill which would require that immigrants demonstrate proficiency in English before they can secure legal immigrant status.

Pablo DeLeon, a national AFL-CIO field representative in Florida, said no one expected this from Rubio.

"We're very surprised and disappointed, to say the least, at the position that he's taken," DeLeon said, "especially when he was one of the original Gang of Eight that helped put this bill together."

Rubio also joined Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, to propose amendments that would require undocumented immigrants to pay back taxes on any wages they might have earned. The pair also propose curbing immigrants' ability to access health care tax credits and subsidies, and limiting their access to Social Security benefits upon retirement. Opponents of those moves point out that many immigrants already pay income taxes.

Melissa McGuire-Maniau knows firsthand the frustrations of navigating the current immigration process. She said her husband, Hector, spent 28 years and $34,000 to gain legal status in the United States. She believes the process should be streamlined and less confusing.

"I wonder now how many other Hectors are out there," she said. "To continue to add more obstacles is just not fair."

McGuire-Maniau now works to help other immigrants with groups such as Fight for Florida.

Rubio said in a statement, "The purpose of this immigration bill cannot and should not be to provide as many immigrants as possible with as many government benefits as possible."

Groups such as the Florida AFL-CIO continue to fight for an immigration policy that includes a tough but fair path to citizenship.

Stephanie Carroll Carson, Public News Service - FL