Marco Rubio on Immigration
RUBIO: When you talk about the millions of green cards that are coming in, those aren't actually workers at all. They are just coming in primarily based on family connection. And let me tell you, when my parents came in 1956, I acknowledge that my parents came to the U.S. on a family-based system. The problem is nothing looks like it did 60 years ago. But today in the 21st Century, 60 years later, finding jobs when you don't have skills is very difficult. We need to move to a merit- based system of immigration, not just on H-1B, particularly on green cards. The primary criteria for bringing someone from abroad in the 21st Century should be, what skills do you have? What business are you going to open? What investment are you going to make? What job are you going to be able to do when you arrive?
RUBIO: DACA is an executive order that is unconstitutional. I will cancel it on my first day in office, which means people who currently hold those permits will not be allowed to renew them, and new people will not be allowed to apply for them. I am sympathetic to the plight of someone who came here when they were 2 years old, but you can't solve it doing something that is unconstitutional.
RUBIO: If a company gets caught doing that, they should never be able to use the program again. But we also need to add reforms, not just increase the numbers. For example, before you hire anyone from abroad, you should have to advertise that job for 180 days. You also have to prove that you're not undercutting that you would pay [an American] by bringing in cheap labor.
Q: It sounds like you think Sen. Sessions is wrong to believe there is abuse in that program?
RUBIO: Well, I believe that there are abuses; those companies should be permanently barred from ever using the program again and we should put strict standards in place to ensure that they're not being abused, like the prevailing wage requirement and like the advertising requirement.
But in 2015, we have a very different economy. Our legal immigration system from now on has to be merit-based. It has to be based on what skills you have, what you can contribute economically, & most important of all, on whether or not you're coming here to become an American, not just live in America, but be an American.
But I agree that people are frustrated. This is the most generous country in the world when it comes to immigration, but people feel like we're being taken advantage of. We feel like despite our generosity, we're being taken advantage of.
And let me tell you who never gets talked about in these debates. The people that call my office, who have been waiting for 15 years to come to the United States. And they've paid their fees, and they hired a lawyer, and they can't get in. And they're wondering, maybe they should come illegally. It's a serious problem that needs to be addressed, and otherwise we're going to keep talking about this for the next 30 years, like we have for the last 30 years.
RUBIO: Well, I don't think that's an accurate assessment. We have an unsustainable situation on the border. The only way to address that is to address the root causes: a combination of violence, instability & poverty in Central America. But it's also, according to the president of Honduras, ambiguities in our laws--beginning in 2008 with a very well-intentioned law to prevent human trafficking--and then it continued in 2012 with the president's deferred action program. Those two things have allowed trafficking groups to go into Central America and tell people that America has some special law that's going to allow them to come here and stay, and that's serving as a lure that's driving this crisis.
Gov. Chris Christie parted with many of his fellow Republicans by signing a Democratic-backed law that would allow immigrants in the state illegally to qualify for in-state tuition rates. Christie argued it was common sense for the government to help immigrant children obtain college educations in order to maximize its investment.
RUBIO: It's important to understand, there is no one border. The border is broken into nine different sectors. In some sectors, that's probably being achieved today. But in others, it's not. At least three sectors are far from that number. And that's what the number needs to come up to. If [one sector] fails to reach our metric, then it will be turned over to a border commission made up of local officials from those states most impacted. They will have money set aside so they can solve it for those people themselves. So, we're confident it's achievable. But it's not just border security. E-Verify is part of this bill, a universal E-Verify. Another critical component is the entry/exit tracking system, because 40 percent of illegal immigrants are people that came legally and they overstayed. You have all three working together.
"The people who are against illegal immigration and make that the core of their argument view it only as a law and order issue. But we know it's much more than that. Yes, it is a law & order issue, but it's also a human issue. These are real people. These are human beings who have children, and hopes, and dreams. These are people that are doing what virtually any of us would do if our children were hungry, if their countries were dangerous, if they had no hope for their future. And too often in our conversation about immigration that perspective is lost. Who among us would not do whatever it took to feed our children and provide for them a better future?"
I think everyone should learn other languages. Knowledge of foreign languages is economically empowering and culturally rewarding. But English is our unifying language. We can all speak whatever language we like here. But we should have one language in common. Some critics argue that it's nativist or racist to support English as our official language. I think that's absurd. Learning to speak English is more than a sign of respect from immigrants for their new country. Knowledge of English is necessary to the economic progress and social assimilation.
But the measure was popular with the tea party activists and the Republican Party's right wing. Rubio chose the website Human Events, which was influential with the party's most conservative faction, to clarify his remarks in May 2010. The bill had been changed slightly to say that authorities could not "solely consider race" when asking for documents. Latino activists still considered the measure unsavory, but Rubio told Human Events he thought the revised bill "hit the right notes" and suggested he would have voted for it.
It was a dramatic story, but it wasn't supported by the documents. The Cuban passport of Rubio's mother showed she was never in the country for a 9 month period in the 1960's. The year of her return was also different--1960 instead of 1961.
Some Rubio allies argued that there was no difference between Cubans who came to the US before Castro and those who came afterward. Others pointed out that there were clear political advantages for Rubio in portraying himself as the son of parents who fled Castro.
RUBIO: The only place those bills ever got a hearing was on the floor of the House, and they didn't advance because the Senate didn't want to advance them. Gov. Crist didn't have an interest in them as well.
CRIST: I had an interest in them. How can you say what my interest was?
RUBIO: Well, I never saw you speak out.
Q: But you didn't bring several of these bills to the floor?
RUBIO: Well, they never go out of their committees.
Q: Some critics say you could have done more.
RUBIO: Well, we gave it a hearing. The support wasn't there among the membership at the time, & they were focused at that time on some very serious challenges in a 60-day session.
Having a legal immigration system that works begins with border security. That's not enough; about 1/3 of the folks in this country illegally enter legally & they overstay visas. So we've got to deal with that issue as well.
We've got to deal with the employment aspect of it, because the vast majority of people who enter thi country illegally do so in search of jobs, and jobs are being provided to them. So we need some level of verification system so that employers are required to verify the employment status of their folks.
As far as amnesty, that's where the governor and I disagree. He would have voted for the McCain plan. I think that plan is wrong. If you grant amnesty, in any form, whether it's back of the line or so forth, you will destroy any chance we will ever have of having a legal immigration system that works.
Sen. Ted CRUZ: When Harry Reid and Chuck Schumer were leading the fight to pass a massive amnesty plan, I led the fight to defeat that plan. There is a difference between Senator Rubio and me on this question.
RUBIO: Amnesty is the forgiveness of a wrongdoing without consequence and I've never supported that. The only way to make progress on immigration is not just to pass a law that enforces the law, but actually prove that it's working. People want to see the wall built. They want to see additional border agents. They want to see e-verify. They want to see an entry-exit tracking system. After that is in place, then we'll see what people are willing to support.
Donald TRUMP: I don't often agree with Marco, and I don't often agree with Ted, but I can in this case. The weakest person on illegal immigration is Jeb Bush.
RUBIO: In 2013 we had never faced a crisis like the Syrian refugee crisis now. Up until that point, a refugee meant someone fleeing oppression, fleeing Communism like it is in my community. I think what's important for us to understand and there is a way forward on this issue that we and bring our country together on. And while I'm president I will do it. And it will begin by bringing illegal immigration under control and proving to the American people.
RUBIO: Here's what we learned in 2013. The American people don't trust the Federal Government to enforce our immigration laws, and we will not be able to do anything on immigration until we first prove to the American people that illegal immigration is under control. And we can do that. We know what it takes to do that. It takes at least 20,000 more additional border agents. It takes completing those 700 miles of fencing. It takes a mandatory e-verify system and a mandatory entry/exit tracking system to prevent overstays. After we have done that, the second thing we have to do is reform and modernize the legal immigration system. And after we have done those two things, I think the American people are gonna be reasonable with what do you do with someone who has been in this country for 10 or 12 years.
A: Yes. Before you can ever be a citizen, you have to be a permanent resident. That means a green card. And you have to be in that status for three to five years. And what I have argued is, if you have violated our laws, you should not be allowed to apply for a green card for at least 10 years. And then, when you apply for a green card, you should have to do it through the normal, regular process, not through a special process created for you. So it could take a long time for someone to ultimately apply for citizenship. But I think that's a fair way to do it. It should not be cheaper or faster to become a citizen by having come here illegally.
RUBIO: It's not that we bailed. It's that we don't have the votes to pass it. In fact, we have less votes for comprehensive immigration reform today than we did two years again when that passed, because of the last election, because of unilateral actions the president took through executive order, because of a border crisis, because of minors. So I still believe we need to do immigration reform. I still talk about that on the campaign trail. I outlined it in my book, "American Dreams." The problem is, we can't do it in one big piece of legislation. The votes aren't there.
Rubio said that "the strongest argument" against the Gang of Eight amnesty bill he once co-sponsored--the complaint that the legal status was provided before the border was secured--was "proven to be true" by President Obama's executive actions on immigration. "The president not once but now twice has basically said by executive order, 'I won't enforce the law,'" he said.
Since 2013, however, Rubio has backed away somewhat from a full pathway to citizenship, advocating instead for a "piecemeal" approach starting with border security. In his new book, American Dreams, Rubio proposes a three-step path to permanent residency (aka a green card) for undocumented immigrants:
RUBIO: I think that we have to deal with immigration. We have a broken enforcement system on immigration. We have a legal immigration system that's outdated and needs to be modernized so we can win the global competition for talent. We have millions of people living in this country illegally, many of whom have been here for a decade or longer. We need to find a reasonable but responsible way of incorporating them into American life. Last year we tried to do that through a one-size-fits-all comprehensive approach; it didn't work. We don't have the support for that. The only way we're going to be able to address it--and I believe we should--is through a sequence of bills that begins by proving to people that illegal immigration is under control, modernizing our legal immigration system and then dealing with those who are here illegally.
As Rubio pushed immigration reform, he warned, "If nothing happens in Congress, this president will be tempted to issue an executive order like he did for the DREAM Act kids a year ago, where he basically legalizes 11 million people by the sign of a pen."
Most experts say that's an extreme scenario and would invite legal challenges as well as a political backlash. More likely is that Obama could extend deferred action to additional subsets of the undocumented population, pushing them lower on the priority list. That might be relief for them, but it's also a legal limbo that falls short of legalization. We rated Rubio's statement Mostly False.
RUBIO: [Illegal residents] don't get anything. What they get is the opportunity to apply for [citizenship]. They still have to pass the background checks; pay a registration fee; and they don't qualify for any federal benefits.
Q: Most people think once they have that status, even if it's called temporary, it's never going to get revoked.
RUBIO: Under the existing law today, if you are illegally in the US, you are not prohibited from getting citizenship. The only thing is, you have to go back to your home country, you have to wait 10 years. We're going to create an alternative that says, OK, you want to stay here, you have to wait more than 10 years, you have to be gainfully employed. It will be cheaper, faster and easier for people to go back home and wait 10 years than it will be to go through this process. And that's why it's not amnesty.
RUBIO: Well, three things. First of all, a universal e-verify system which means you won't be able to find a job in the US if you can't pass that check. Second, an entry-exit system-- 40% of our immigration are people that enter legally and then overstay their visas. We don't really know who they are, because we don't track even when they leave. And third is real border security including fencing. And all three of these things are going to happen because they are triggers for the green card process. That's the incentive to ensure they happen. In essence, for those who are undocumented, they'll have to wait 10 years, and also wait until those three things are fully implemented.
RUBIO: First of all, I think it's important to point out this is not a theory. They are actually here. We are not talking about bringing millions of people here illegally. They are here now and they are going to be here for rest of their lives. The proposals in the past that some have advocated is to make their lives miserable so that they'll leave on their own or to basically ignore the problem which is happening now and is de facto amnesty.
Q: some Republicans are going to say that your plan is really just amnesty under another name. Is it?
RUBIO: Well, I think that that misses the point that under existing law, if you're illegally here, you can get a green card. We're saying, if you decide you wanted to stay here, you'll have to wait for more than 10 years. So I would argue that the existing law is actually more lenient than going through this process that we are outlining.
Carmona said, "I think it's a political calculation--that they recognized they cannot win their races and stay in office unless they embrace the Hispanic community."
The original DREAM Act would grant young people who were brought illegally to the US as children a path to citizenship provided that they attend college or serve in the military. Rubio's plan would provide not a path to citizenship but rather non-immigrant visas.
Rubio's spokesman said the proposal is a genuine effort to craft a bipartisan solution when it comes to the legal status of young undocumented immigrants. "Senator Rubio is working in good faith on legislation that can win bipartisan support and help undocumented kids who want to join the military or pursue higher education."
Faith2Action.org is "the nation's largest network of pro-family groups." They provide election resources for each state, including Voter Guides and Congressional Scorecards excerpted here. The Faith2Action survey summarizes candidate stances on the following topic: 'Granting amnesty to illegal immigrants '
Faith2Action.org is "the nation's largest network of pro-family groups." They provide election resources for each state, including Voter Guides and Congressional Scorecards excerpted here. The Faith2Action survey summarizes candidate stances on the following topic: 'Full implementation of current border security laws'
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