Sen. Marco Rubio on Tuesday called on President Barack Obama not to take executive action on illegal immigration and to work with Congress on realistic, "sequential" reform.
"If we can bring illegal immigration under control and modernize our legal immigration system, then the American people and a majority of their representatives in Congress would be willing to reasonably and responsibly address the issue of millions of people currently in this nation illegally," the first-term Florida Republican said in a letter to the White House
"It will not be easy. And it will not be unanimous.
"But if we can make real progress on stemming the tide of illegal immigration, I am convinced we will have the support necessary to address this serious issue once and for all," Rubio wrote.
Obama is expected to announce several executive actions to address the immigration crisis created by the more than 63,000 illegal minors who have been apprehended at the U.S. border in south Texas since Oct. 1.
The administration has estimated that as many as 90,000 could be taken into custody by Border Patrol officers by the end of next month. So far, more than 174,000 immigrants overall have been detained, news reports say.
Obama has dubbed the situation "a humanitarian crisis" — and immigration reform advocates say the minors are fleeing extreme poverty, crime, and gang warfare in their home countries, primarily in Central America. The migrants have fled from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala.
Republicans and other critics, however, have charged that the administration's lax enforcement of immigration laws has caused the deluge. They also point to reports in Central American media
about deferred deportation of minors brought to the United States as children by their parents.
Among the actions Obama is considering are expanding the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which he created by executive order in 2012, and possibly granting work permits to as many as 6 million illegals.
The president has said he will announce his actions shortly after Labor Day.
Rubio, who is considering a run for the White House in 2016, was among the bipartisan Gang of Eight senators behind the comprehensive reform bill
passed by the Senate last year.
The legislation calls for increased border security — and would require illegals to pass criminal background checks, pay ﬁnes, learn English, and pay taxes before getting in line for citizenship.
Rubio's letter also comes amid recent polls
showing that 74 percent of respondents say Obama should work with Congress to develop an immigration policy that first benefits Americans. Only 21 percent say Obama should act alone.
He told Obama he had "grown increasingly alarmed by news that your administration is considering sweeping executive action to give work permits to millions of people here illegally."
"If indeed you move forward on such a decision, I believe it will close the door to any chance of making progress on immigration reform for the foreseeable future," Rubio wrote.
"I know you are receiving tremendous political pressure from certain activists to grant another unilateral, temporary and uncertain legal status to millions of additional undocumented immigrants," the senator added.
"But to do so, without first taking any serious steps to address the border or protect American workers, will increase the perception of ambiguity in our laws, incentivize more people to immigrate here illegally, and significantly set back the prospects of real reform."
Rubio concluded that he remained confident that Obama would "reject the politics of the moment and remember that the decisions you make will impact the people at the heart of this issue long after your duty to serve them has come to an end."
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