(Recasts, adds details from talk shows, White House response)
WASHINGTON, Feb 17 (Reuters) - The White House is drafting a
backup immigration reform plan in case a bipartisan
congressional committee working on a bill fails, an Obama
Administration official said on Sunday, though a key Republican
said the president's plan would be "dead on arrival" on Capitol
White House Chief of staff Denis McDonough said the
administration hoped that bipartisan efforts would deliver a
broadly acceptable package, but wanted a plan B.
"We're doing exactly what the president said we would do
last month ... which is we're preparing. We're going to be
ready," he said on ABC's "This Week' program, confirming a
published report on Saturday disclosing the White House effort.
Politicians on both sides of the aisle are anxious to tackle
immigration reform, after the increasingly influential Latino
vote turned out heavily in favor of President Barack Obama and
his Democrats in the November 2012 election.
USA Today said on Saturday that a draft of a White House
immigration proposal would allow illegal immigrants to become
legal permanent residents within eight years.
The plan, obtained by the newspaper, also would provide for
more security funding and require businesses to check the
immigration status of new hires within four years.
McDonough gave no details of White House's plan, but said it
was important that immigration reform passed this year and made
clear the administration hoped bipartisan efforts on Capitol
Hill bore fruit.
"So let's make sure they get this thing done, and they're up
there working on it right now. We have to make progress on
immigration reform, we should enact it this year and the
president will continue to work with the team to make sure that
Obama emphasized in last week's State of the Union address
the importance of creating a path to citizenship for the
estimated 11 million immigrants who are in the United States
illegally. Many Republicans stress that the nation's borders
must be secured first.
Latinos favored Obama over Republican Mitt Romney in the
Nov. 6 election by 71 percent to 27 percent, helping tilt
politically divided states to the Democratic incumbent.
Republicans want to show Latinos they understand their
concerns on immigration, but must also be mindful of
conservative members of their own party who worry about
encouraging even more illegal immigration in the future.
Senator Marco Rubio, the key Republican on the issue and one
of the eight senators on the committee crafting the legislation,
dismissed the White House draft as a seriously flawed rehash of
failed immigration policies that would make the country's
immigration problems worse.
"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, who
is a Cuban-American from Florida, said in a statement on
SECURE BORDERS FIRST
According to USA Today, illegal immigrants could also apply
for a newly created "Lawful Prospective Immigrant" visa, under
the White House's draft bill. If approved, they could apply for
the same provisional legal status for spouses or children living
outside the country, according to the draft.
Conservative Republicans like Senator Rand Paul want borders
to be first secured before they can endorse any immigration
"I will support it on one condition: That we have a report
that says the borders are being secured ... (it has to be) a
report and comes back and is voted on in Congress," Paul said on
"Fox News Sunday."
"I won't do it on a promise from President Obama, that he
will secure the borders," Paul, from Kentucky, added.
Paul Ryan, the Republican vice president candidate in last
year's elections, suggested the White House plan was leaked
"By putting these details out ... that tells us he is
looking for partisan advantage and not a bipartisan solution.
This particular move is counter productive," Ryan said on ABC's
"This Week" program.
A White House official denied it was leaked.
"This was not the administration floating anything. ... We
were surprised to learn what appeared to be draft language had
been given to the press, thought it was unfortunate, and reached
out to senate offices on both sides of the aisle on Saturday
evening to make that clear."
(Additional reporting by Alister Bull, Steve Holland and Paul
Simao; Editing by Philip Barbara)