Their proposal would limit the family preference system that now allows the brothers, sisters and parents of legal residents to immigrate. Instead, they would expand visas available to entrepreneurs, to high-skilled workers with advanced math and science degrees, and to low-skilled workers needed to fill agricultural and other jobs. And they would give states the power to step up their own enforcement of federal immigration laws and to curtail social services for illegal immigrants -- an idea that is sure to spark controversy.
The book notes that federal law requires hospital emergency rooms to provide medical care to everyone and proposes that states be allowed to "define which services are covered" for illegal immigrants and those who don't yet have permanent legal residency. Bolick says that step could save the government money and reduce public resentment of illegal immigrants. "I'm not prepared to say we should change that law," Bush says. "I think we ought to have a conversation about that."
The plan is a more extensive overhaul of immigration law than the Obama administration's draft proposal that leaked last month and a more conservative blueprint than the working principles outlined by the bipartisan group of eight senators now trying to negotiate a bill. Bush argues it's also more likely to get through the Republican-controlled House.
"That could create a dialogue to find some middle ground that would get us to where we need to be," he says.
'A huge Marco fan'
Bush may be determined to wait until next year to focus on a possible presidential run, but Rubio already is on the move.
Rubio, 41, a member of that bipartisan Senate group on immigration, delivered the official Republican response to the president's State of the Union Address in January. He's just back from a trip to the Mideast that burnished his foreign policy credentials. At the end of last year, he just happened to keynote an event in Iowa, site of the opening presidential caucuses.
Rubio's rising profile has put a bit of pressure on Bush to decide his own intentions, or at least take some steps (CPAC, anyone?) to make sure the door doesn't close on him.
In 2009, after Florida Sen. Mel Martinez announced he wouldn't run for a second term, Rubio went to Bush's law office in Miami to discuss the race for an hour. "If he were to run, no one would challenge him in the primary -- certainly not me," Rubio explained in his book An American Son, published last year. Only when Bush called to say he had decided against seeking the seat did Rubio seriously weigh getting in.
No such conversation has taken place between the two men about the presidential race, Bush says.
"We haven't talked about 2016," Bush says. "But I'm a huge Marco fan, and I'm inspired by him, and I think he's doing a great job as a senator, and we're friends. That's the level of our relationship. I've always been a fan of him from when he was, like, 26 years old and a city councilman in West Miami. I knew he had a gift."
So another question: How many Republicans who hail from Miami-Dade County and share key advisers, close ties to the Hispanic community and a focus on immigration policy can run for president at the same time?
Bush laughs. "I'll let the pundits salivate over that," he replies. "It's for my own sanity and for good reasons that I don't think about it. I don't speculate about it. I don't dream about it. I can shut that off. I've got enough things going on in my life, trust me."
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