WASHINGTON - The White House defended its behind-the-scenes work on immigration reform Sunday after a plan leaked to the US media was panned by a key Republican as "half-baked and seriously flawed." USA Today said the plan being drafted by administration and which is already circulating among various government agencies would allow illegal immigrants to become legal permanent residents within eight years. Republicans immediately attacked the plan and sharply criticized the White House for developing it without consulting them. Senator Marco said the president's plan would be "dead on arrival" in Congress.

 "This legislation is half-baked and seriously flawed," he said, adding, "It would actually make our immigration problems worse." In his State of the Union address on Tuesday, Obama urged Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform "in the next few months." And eight senators - four of Obama's Democratic allies and four Republicans - unveiled a joint plan last month aiming to provide a legal status to illegal immigrants living on US soil. White House chief of staff Denis McDonough insisted on Sunday that the administration was working intensely with the so-called "gang of eight," including Rubio. "And we're going to continue to work with Senator Rubio and others on this," McDonough said, in an interview with ABC News. "But he says it's dead on arrival if it's proposed. Well, let's make sure that it doesn't have to be proposed. "Let's make sure that that group up there, the gang of eight, makes good progress on these efforts, as much as they say they want to."