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Townhall: Rubio Calls Immigration Proposal a “Starting Point”

Posted 4/25/2013

By: Guy Benson

In an exclusive interview with Townhall, Sen. Marco Rubio repeatedly emphasizes that the “Gang of Eight” framework on comprehensive immigration reform is not a “take it or leave it” proposition.  He strongly encourages fellow conservatives to help improve and strengthen the bill as the legislative process advances.  Below is the audio and transcript of the full exchange, which will air on my radio program this weekend.  Rubio addresses various provisions within the legislation, as well as some conservatives’ objections — general and specific — to the framework:

BENSON: Putting my cards on the table, I am in favor of immigration reform. I think that the current status quo is unworkable. It’s broken. It’s dysfunctional. And at almost every level, it’s unfair. It’s unfair to citizens, it’s unfair to people who worked really hard to get here legally, and at times, it’s also unfair to people who came here illegally.  It needs to be changed, and I entirely agree with Senator Rubio’s contention that the status quo, staying as we are, amounts to a de facto amnesty for millions of people. It’s a mess. He makes that point; it’s valid. Let me also say this: I’m a huge fan of Marco Rubio. Ever since I saw him give his farewell speech on the floor of the House in Florida, when he was going to run for Senate against very long odds — and ended up beating Charlie Crist, of course, and became the US Senator — I was smitten politically when I saw that speech.  He’s a natural, he’s hugely talented, he’s likeable, he’s conservative. I admire him, I respect him, I trust him. All that being said, in spite of my open-mindedness, if not appetite, for reform — and my positive feelings toward Senator Rubio — I have some real, serious, substantive issues with what I’ve seen so far coming out of the ‘Gang of Eight.’ As I’ve looked at the bill. As I’ve read analysis of it. As I’ve peered under the hood…and so without further ado, we’re delighted to be joined by Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida. Welcome, Senator.

RUBIO: Thank you for having me

BENSON: Let’s dive right into the questions. As a conservative, Senator, I guess a big picture question I have is, we as conservatives really have a lot of skepticism about the federal government. There’s a Pew poll that came out this week; confidence in the federal government is at an all-time low across all demographics, especially among Republicans. And there’s good reason for this. Be it Obamacare, or the “stimulus,” the government has shown an inability, an incompetence, at doing big things. So why should we trust the federal government to get this right, finally, after decades of missing the mark?

RUBIO: Well first of all, thanks, that’s a great question, and that’s exactly why I’ve gotten involved in it. The only way that I know to make the executive branch execute a law is to pass a law that forces them to do it.  So for example, one of the things we’ve known for a long time is that the magnet that draws illegal immigrants to the United States is employment. And this law mandates a universal E-Verify system. It is not an option, it is a mandate. They must do it. We know that 40 percent of the people that are illegally in this country entered legally and overstayed their visas. This law mandates the creation of an entry and exit system so that we can track everyone, not just when they come in, but when they leave. It also mandates spending over five-and-a-half billion dollars on border security, including a billion-and-a-half on new fencing. Double fencing. Not chicken wire, I mean real stuff.  So these are mandated things that will have to happen. And in addition to that, it fundamentally changes the legal immigration system, away from this kind of family-based system that’s based totally on whether you know someone who lives here or not, to a system that’s based on whether you have the talents and the skills to contribute to our economy. The alternative to doing that, I think — unfortunately, given the political make-up of the country — is to leave things the way they are and to leave them in place. And the way they’re in place right now is an administration that is never going to do E-Verify, that is never going to secure the border, and is never going to do any of these things that we’re talking about doing…

BENSON: Okay, well, speaking of that administration, Janet Napolitano is DHS Secretary. A lot of the law here, a lot of the triggers and enforcement is ceded to the Department of Homeland Security. At least up front. Napolitano, just last month, said that the border’s already secure. So, I mean, why should we entrust this DHS and this secretary in particular to do a job that she thinks is already done?

Read the rest of the transcript here.