Rubio: Immigration Reform Won't Happen Under Obama

Wednesday, 12 Mar 2014 09:55 AM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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Immigration reform isn't likely to happen before President Barack Obama leaves office, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio says, because of the lack of trust Republicans have in the nation's leader.

"It's going to be very difficult now to do anything comprehensive in Washington," Rubio told Bloomberg's Peter Cook.  "People don't like to hear this, but it's true given the lack of trust in this president that particularly Republicans have."

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Rubio said that he, like Obama, does still believe comprehensive immigration reform is important for the nation's economy, and reform measures should focus on attracting global talent while improving on how immigration laws are enforced.

And that's where the issue with trust in Obama comes in, Rubio said.

"The argument that we continue to hear is, you're going to go ahead and do the legalization, but that's going to be linked to enforcement," Rubio said. "But then the president is going to pick and choose which parts of the enforcement he moves forward on and which ones he doesn't, and we're going to end up with all of the legalization and only half or none of the enforcement."

Rubio told Cook that he believes the nation is in global competition not just for investment, but for talent.

"Think about it this way," he said. "If the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft next year is from another country, there is no way in the world that person's going to have an immigration problem. We've never deported a 7-foot-2 center. We've never deported the best point guard in America. We've never done that. If we wouldn't do that in sports, why would we do that to our economy?"

It's essential to have an immigration system that values contributions to the economy rather than "family reunification," which is what the system is currently based on, Rubio said.

"There's still going to be an element of that, but I think it has to be primarily about building our economy and bringing people here that can contribute and help build our economy," said Rubio. "I certainly think we have to improve the ways in which we enforce our immigration laws, and we do have a problem with 12 million human beings that live in the U.S. illegally, and that has to be addressed."

He acknowledges that the United States is "not going to round up and deport 12 million people," and he does not think that is the argument anymore.

"The debate is about what should the consequences be for having violated our immigration laws," he said. "What is the process by which you integrate these people fully into the American society and prevent this from happening again in the future, and that's what's proved politically difficult."

Meanwhile, Rubio is attempting to rebuild his image with conservative Republicans after his controversial support for immigration reform last year.

The Florida Republican has been at the forefront of pushing the Obama administration to take aggressive action against the Russians for their invasion of Ukraine, and he's been leading the charge for strong U.S. sanctions against Venezuela after a brutal crackdown against protesters.

But he does not regret his push for immigration reform, even though it has cost him some conservative support.

"My only regret on immigration reform is we couldn't arrive at a solution that brought on board more people, so that we could actually get it done," Rubio said.

Rubio also said he does not agree with a proposal by New York Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer to extend immigration reform past Obama's remaining time in office.

"That's not a serious proposal because in the interim what you're doing is you're leaving the problem unsolved for two and a half years," Rubio said. Instead, the Florida senator would like to start working on the parts of immigration reform that do not include political controversy.

"Why don't we modernize our legal immigration system?" Rubio asked. "Why don't we improve our enforcement mechanisms? I think if we started to do that you would create momentum, and I think you would create the political space and confidence we need to ultimately finish the job."

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