Florida Sen. Marco Rubio tells Newsmax TV that the Republican Party can attract Hispanic voters by convincing them that limited government, free enterprise, and the principles of conservatism will allow them to become "a part of our middle class.”
“But we can’t make that argument to people who think that we’re not welcoming to them or people who think we want to deport someone they love,” Rubio, who sits on both the Senate Intelligence and Foreign Relations committees, tells Newsmax in an exclusive interview. “And unfortunately, at times, the left has been successful by convincing some Americans of Hispanic descent that the Republican Party’s not welcoming towards them.”
Over the weekend, Rubio detailed a broad plan for immigration reform, which includes steps to give more than 12 million illegals currently in the U.S. legal status. The goal is to seize the initiative on a contentious issue that polls show is hurting the GOP with the nation’s rapidly growing Hispanic population.
Editor's Note: Read More About Marco Rubio's Plans to Change America. Click Here!
The first-term GOP senator’s plan comes as President Obama said he would introduce his own a comprehensive immigration plan in March.
“The reason why I’m dealing with this issue is because I think it’s an important issue for our country to confront and to solve, but obviously there are political implications, which are important as well,” Rubio said.
Rubio said that two core principles underlie his immigration effort.
“Legal immigration is good for America,” he began. “It’s been good for us throughout our history — and it’s important for our future. The second point that we have to remember is America has a right to have – as a sovereign country – immigration laws and has a right to see those laws respected. No one has the right to immigrate illegally to the United States and the right to stay here.
“That being said, we do have a reality in this country: We have 8 million to 10 million people who are undocumented — we wish that weren’t the case — but it is, and we have to deal with what we have, but we have to deal with it in a way that ensures that this will never happen again.
“We need a legal immigration system that is modern and that works — and that includes the creation of a guest-worker program and, of course, it has to be one that doesn’t hurt American workers, but one that realizes that there are seasonal labor needs in this country that sometimes cannot be met by a sufficient number of Americans, especially in areas like agriculture,” Rubio added. “We also need a modern legal immigration system where — today, only 6.5 percent of the people that immigrate to this country immigrate here based on skill.
“We have to change that, and I’m a believer in family-based immigration. I’m not trying to undermine family-based immigration. That’s how my parents came. But we need to do a better job of attracting the world’s best and brightest when they want to come here — and that’s why we need to extend visas and things of that nature, and we certainly need to place a greater emphasis on the people that are being trained in our universities that we’ve already spent money on educating in this country and then asking them to go overseas. That makes no sense.”
Any successful immigration program must be enforceable, Rubio said.
“You can create the greatest immigration system in the world, but if your laws aren’t enforced, they’re worthless,” he began. “That’s why we need to spend more money and more resources on border security, both in infrastructure and in manpower, that’s why we need a workplace verification system.
“We’re hoping to do a better job of tracking visitors to our country when they come in to make sure that they’re leaving when their time is up. Almost 40 percent of our illegal immigration is people who have entered the country legally but then overstay their visas.”
While his program, like the one forthcoming from President Obama, both seek to create a process for undocumented workers to obtain legal status — and ultimately citizenship — Rubio said his plan differed greatly.
“My idea isn’t to give people amnesty or special pathways. My plan is to deal with the folks that are here now in a way that’s responsible — and the way that you do that is you ask people who are here undocumented to come forward.
Editor's Note: Read More About Marco Rubio's Plans to Change America. Click Here!
“If they committed a serious crime in this country, they will be deported,” Rubio declared. “If they have not, they will have to pay back taxes. They will have to pay a fine. They will have to do community service. They will have to know English. They will have to know about our civics. They will have to have lived here for a significant period of time — and in exchange for all of those things and a background check, national security and criminal, what they will gain is a legal status on their work permit to be in this country.
“And, they will have to remain in that status for a significant period of time. Not an indefinite period, but a significant period. And after that time has elapsed, assuming that the enforcement mechanisms have been put in place, and assuming they have not violated any of the conditions of their temporary status, the only thing they will gain is the opportunity to apply via the existing legal immigration system.
“They would have to get in line behind anyone who’s applied before them — and they will have to qualify for whatever visa it is they are applying for, and at that point they will get a green card, but they’re still not citizens,” Rubio said. “Then after you get your green card, you still have to wait five years before you can apply for citizenship, which has its own set of requirements.”
Turning to the impending negotiations on raising the nation’s $16.4 trillion borrowing limit, Rubio said a default is inevitable, deal or not.
“I don’t think anyone wants the government to default, but this government is going to default eventually if it continues to borrow over 40 cents out of every dollar that it spends. What we should not allow is for the debt-limit moment to come up and not use it as an opportunity to confront the real crisis in America — and that is a debt that is out of control, that threatens us with bankruptcy, and that is destroying the opportunity to create middle-class jobs and the growth of the middle class in our country.”
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Rubio said he would only support a rise in the debt ceiling if an agreement comes with deep spending cuts.
“I will vote to raise the debt ceiling as part of something like a balanced-budget amendment, constraints on future increases in the debt limit, real entitlement reform, regulatory reform, tax reform. I did not come to Washington to be a part of short-term plans that don’t solve anything. I’m not against compromise, but I’m only for compromise that’s also a solution.”
In his wide-ranging Newsmax interview, Rubio also said that:
- President Obama is “overreaching in general in the use of his executive powers” in his threat to use his authority to enact legislation that seeks to stem gun violence in the country in the wake of the Connecticut school shootings last month. “He gets frustrated with our republic, and he then tries to ignore it and ignore the Constitution by taking unilateral action. The issue’s not guns. The issue is violence. The guns are just what they’re using to commit the violence.”
- He eagerly awaits Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s testimony next week on the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya that killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. “The most important question is what did she and others in the upper echelons of the State Department know about it in terms of the environment in Benghazi before the attack? And, why knowing the things they should have known or did know did they take such lax efforts to provide sufficient security and response?”
- He plans to aggressively vet Obama’s three national security nominees — Massachusetts Democratic Sen. John Kerry to succeed Clinton, former GOP Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska for Defense Secretary and John Brennan for director of the Central Intelligence Agency. “I intend to vigorously question all three nominees and ask them questions about where they stand — and to explain some of their past actions.”
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