Republicans hope Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) can help them reach out to Hispanic voters but any debate on immigration reform could end up alienating the bloc they are courting.
Groups that want to stem the flow of illegal immigration say a bill Rubio has crafted could become a vehicle for other proposals, such as legislation requiring employers to verify the immigration status of workers and revoking birthright citizenship.
Votes on these controversial proposals could hurt Republicans with Hispanic voters but may also rally the GOP base, which wants the federal government to do more to combat illegal immigration.
Rubio will soon unveil a plan to grant legal residency to illegal immigrants who came to the country as children if they meet certain requirements. It would serve as an alternative to the Democrats' DREAM Act, which grants a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants who came to the U.S. at a young age.
"I suspect it will become a vehicle for all sorts of amendments," said Ira Mehlman, spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, in reference to Rubio's bill.
Rubio said he is waiting to get "final figures from the Congressional Budget Office" about how much the bill would cost and how many immigrants it would affect.
He believes many Democrats would vote for his legislation, which will put pressure on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to schedule a vote.
Rep. Luis Gutierrez (Ill.), a leading Democratic proponent of immigration reform, predicted last month that as many as 95 percent of Democrats could support Rubio's bill if it "stops the deportations and is sensible and reasonable," according to Talking Points Memo, a digital news organization.
Rubio's bill could give a small group of conservative colleagues a chance to force a vote on ending birthright citizenship.
Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) has sponsored the Birthright Citizenship Act, which would amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to consider a person born in the U.S. a citizen only if his or her parent is a U.S. citizen, a lawful permanent resident or an alien serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.
Republican Sens. John Boozman (Ark.), Mike Lee (Utah), Jerry Moran (Kan.) and Rand Paul (Ky.) have co-sponsored Vitter's bill.
Vitter's proposal would draw support from other Republicans if it reached the Senate floor.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) has called birthright citizenship "a mistake."
"It's an inducement to break the law," said Graham. "If you go to France and have a child they don't become a French citizen."
Birthright citizenship stems from the 14th Amendment, which states, "All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and the State wherein they reside."
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