The immigration reform legislation under consideration in Washington will include a "massive surge of resources" to stop illegal immigrants from entering and remaining in the country, Sen. Marco Rubio tells Newsmax.
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The Florida Republican also says the current system is a "complete disaster," and he has a moral obligation to take on an issue that he acknowledges offers him "no political gain."
Rubio was elected in 2010 in a three-way race that included then-Gov. Charlie Crist. He is considered a key figure in the tea party movement and is the author of the book "An American Son: A Memoir."
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Senate negotiators, including Rubio, have reportedly reached a compromise on border security provisions in the immigration reform legislation.
In an exclusive interview with Newsmax TV on Thursday, Rubio discloses: "First of all, let me explain why border security is so important. We understand America is a special country and because of that, people want to come here from all over the world. In fact, people are willing to risk their lives to come illegally. And while we sympathize with that, we are a sovereign country. We have a right to secure our border.
"What I've been saying for weeks is if we don’t improve the border security parts of this bill, we are not going to be able to pass it. The American people won't support it, and rightfully so. People are saying I understand we have to do immigration reform but you've got to get the border secured and that's what this will endeavor to do.
"You're talking about literally doubling the size of the current border patrol. You're talking about completing 700 miles of fencing. You're talking about requiring the full completion of E-verify, something conservatives have been calling for years, a tracking system so visitors can't overstay their visas, and fully deploying a technology like ground sensors and cameras and night vision and radars and even drones that will help those border agents that we're adding to apprehend people that are illegally crossing the border.
"This is a massive surge of resources to our border. In an ideal world we wouldn't need that, but right now we have a problem that we have to confront, and until that problem is solved, we have to have measures like this in place. It is a very significant step forward."
Some Republicans have pushed for benchmarks on border enforcement, such as a 90 percent success rate for stopping illegal immigration.
Rubio comments: "It remains the goal of this legislation to be able to see everything that's happening on the border and to stop nine out of 10 people that are crossing, and quite frankly, 10 out of 10 people if we can get to that point.
"But 40 percent of our illegal immigrants are people that are coming legally and then staying. We're now going to know who they are because we're going to have an entry-exit tracking system. And for those who are here illegally, they're going to struggle to find a job because we're going to require mandatory E-verify. That's got to be in place fully across the American economy in less than four years.
"So this is a dramatic improvement over what we have in place today, and there are conservatives that are very troubled by this. They have no trust in the federal government. They've heard these promises before, but never before have those promises been linked to something else that guarantees it's going to happen. All of these things I've described to you have to be in place before anyone who has violated our immigration laws can become a lawful, legal, permanent resident of the United States 10 years from now."
The Congressional Budget Office asserted that the immigration bill's provisions will stop only about 25 percent of illegal immigration. But as the bill stands now with the compromise on border security, Rubio maintains: "We want to prevent any future waves of illegal immigration. That's the goal here, not 25, 30, 50.
"And if you have an E-verify system, if people get the message that you can't find a job in America if you're there illegally, they're going to stop coming. If people get the message that you can't overstay visas in the United States because we're going to know who you are and you won't be able to find a job, they're going to stop doing it. If people get the message that the border's not easy to cross anymore because the U.S. is protecting it, people are going to stop trying.
"But here's the other point. What if we do nothing? What if this bill fails, nothing happens on immigration reform? Then you know what stays in place? What we have right now. That means 100 percent of the people that are scheduled to come here illegally will come illegally. And we won't be able to know who they are, we won't know when they came, we won't know where they are.
"Plus, the 11 million or whatever the number may be who are here illegally now, we don’t know who they are. They're not paying taxes. They're working. Some have been here longer than 10 years. If we don’t have these things, we'll never know who they are, they'll never pay taxes, and that's not good for our country either.
"What I'm trying to do now, I know this is not a popular issue and I don't think this is going to earn me any parades or accolades. I'm honestly doing this because I truly in my heart believe that what we have in place right is a complete disaster and it is hurting this country that I owe so much to, and I just feel a moral obligation to fix it, to do what I can to try to fix it. That's what this is about for me."
People at a tea party rally on Capitol Hill on Wednesday had signs calling Rubio a RINO — Republican In Name Only. And former Congressman Allen West bashed the immigration bill and wouldn't rule out running against Rubio in the GOP primary in 2016.
"The people are frustrated and I do understand that," Rubio says. "That's why I spent two years studying this issue.
"Many people have been through these battles before where they were made promises they're going to build a fence, they're going to do this, they're going to do that. It never happens. And people have a right to be distrustful of government.
"The only thing I can say is there's no political gain in this for me. If I was thinking about politics, there's no way I would've taken this issue on.
"If I don’t come up here and try to fix problems that I have a chance to fix, then what am I here for? People are frustrated because they're distrustful of government, and some of that anger will be directed towards me and I accept it with humility.
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"I remind people I agree with them on virtually every other issue, if you look at my voting record and what I stand for. But on this issue, I've reached the conclusion that we have to act and do something if we can do it the right way. And this bill does more for border security than any measure that's ever been proposed, at least in my opinion."
Asked if the bill has the 70 votes needed to assure passage in the Senate, Rubio tells Newsmax: "I don’t know how many votes it will get. [The compromise] will certainly increase the support that bill has. It gets us closer to that number where we have significant support.
"Most Republicans, most conservatives want to fix this problem. They are ready to fix this problem. All they ask is that we don’t have another wave of illegal immigration in the future, and that’s why I've pushed so hard for the last three weeks, despite complaints by people who don’t want to see it happen, that we improve the border security in this bill. And this is a dramatic improvement."
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