Despite increased attacks by Capitol Hill Republicans over the proposed immigration bill, Sen. Marco Rubio tells Newsmax TV that he remains determined to reform the nations "broken" system.
"The broken legal immigration system that we have now is hurting America now very badly," the Florida Republican tells Newsmax in an exclusive interview. "It just is."
"If we didn't have a single illegal immigrant in the U.S., we would still have to do immigration reform because we have a legal immigration system that is broken," he adds. "We are educating the world's best scientists and then we are asking them to leave our country and go compete against us. These things make no sense.
"We have industries in America like agriculture that rely heavily on seasonal labor, but we don't have a legal system for those folks to come here in a consistent way," Rubio says. "We need immigration reform just to have a pro-growth, pro-economy immigration system."
Rubio is among the bipartisan "Gang of Eight" senators who introduced a comprehensive immigration bill in April. It calls for increased border security, and requires illegal immigrants to pass multiple criminal background checks, pay ﬁnes, learn English, and pay taxes before getting in line for citizenship, among other reforms.
The legislation passed the Senate Judiciary Committee with a number of amendments in May and is expected to be debated later this month.
The bill has been attacked by Republicans -- who say it's amnesty and charge that it does little to strengthen the nation’s borders -- and other conservatives, including journalist Bill Kristol, who labeled it a "big government, liberal piece of legislation" and urged Rubio to abandon the legislation.
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The senator has recently conceded, however, that the legislation currently lacks the 60 Senate votes needed to break a possible GOP filibuster.
"We have immigration laws that are not being enforced partly because of an administration that doesn't want to enforce them, but partially because we don't have the tools or the mechanism to enforce the law," Rubio tells Newsmax. "We don't have enough fencing. We don't have enough border patrol. We don't have an e-verify system. We don't have a way to track visitors to our country when they enter and when they exit, so we have to do that as well."
Perhaps the greatest incentive for immigration reform: "We have 11 million human beings at least living in the United States right now illegally," he says. "We don't know who many of them are. We don't know where they are. We don't know why they're here -- and we can't continue to allow that to exist.
“Most of them have been here longer than a decade. Many of them are not paying taxes, and we need to start finding out who these people are and create a path by which they can incorporate themselves into the American economy -- by paying fines, by starting to pay taxes, by undergoing background checks for both national security and crimes -- and these are the things we're working on.
"This is important for America," Rubio adds. "If we can do it right, we should do it. If we can't do it right, then it's not going to happen."
The costs are even higher if no immigration bill passes, the junior senator says.
"The vast majority of the American people and the vast majority of conservatives are prepared to do immigration reform ... but not if it means that in five years we're going to have another 5 million or 6 million illegal immigrants in the United States. That's where the Republican Party is and should be.
"If we could pass an immigration reform bill that deals with these things and prevents a future flow of illegal immigrants, then that's good," Rubio says. "And if we can't, if the Democrats decide that they’re not going to support immigration reform because they don't want to support border security and other measures, then the American people will understand that we were not the impediment."
To help address some of the criticism, Rubio has proposed removing the responsibility for enforcing border security to Congress from the Department of Homeland Security.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has come under fire for frequently declaring the borders secure when the international border with Arizona is not, senators contend, and the agency in February released hundreds of illegal aliens from detention, including many who were convicted of felonies and other criminal offenses, amid pending budget cuts.
"What I've heard from many members is that they don't trust the Department of Homeland Security under Secretary Napolitano to come up with an effective plan," Rubio tells Newsmax. "If they don't trust them to do it, then let's do it ourselves by taking input from experts and mandating that specific things happen in law and that these things be completed before any green card process begins.
"We've been working with many of our colleagues to get those ideas in writing and, hopefully, we'll have something to announce here pretty soon."
Turning his attention to Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s decision on Tuesday to schedule a special election to fill the seat of longtime Democrat Sen. Frank Lautenberg, who died on Monday at age 89, Rubio says the governor is looking out "for the best interests of the state of New Jersey."
Rubio says he was hoping to see a Republican named to fill the seat, especially since it would have improved the numbers for the GOP in the Senate.
"We could certainly use the help here over the next few months."
In his wide-ranging exclusive interview with Newsmax, Rubio also said that:
Editor's Note: Read excerpts of the Newsmax interview with Sen. Marco Rubio:
- A “culture of crazy” exists at the Internal Revenue Service, especially in light of an inspector general’s audit that showed the agency spent $49 million on 225 employee conferences over three years.
- He proposed a constitutional amendment on Tuesday to invalidate Obamacare’s individual mandate because “we want to make it abundantly clear that it is unconstitutional.”
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