The influx of illegal immigrants across the southern United States border has effectively eliminated the possibility of passing any type of immigration reform in Congress until the issue of border security is addressed, said Sen. Marco Rubio.
In an exclusive interview with Newsmax TV, the Florida Republican told "America's Forum" host J.D. Hayworth the difficulties he faced as a member of the Senate's Gang of Eight, which authored the immigration reform legislation passed in the chamber last June.
He said he consistently fought for stricter security measures as a condition for the bill, but was repeatedly overruled and accused of trying to derail the bipartisan effort.
He added that on a number of occasions he was told that the legislation would not progress in the House if the bill did not include stricter border security enforcement measures, and believes that those predictions have come to fruition with the House refusing to add it to the political agenda this year.
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He added that the mood among House lawmakers toward the issue has further soured by the escalation of the crisis of unaccompanied minors crossing the border illegally.
"While I do think Americans recognize the need to address [immigration reform] they're not prepared, certainly members of Congress, the majority, are not prepared, to address this issue until first the illegal immigration problem is dealt with," he said.
"People are just not prepared to address the other parts of immigration until they believe that illegal immigration is under control," he said.
Rubio also reflected on the president's $3.7 billion request for emergency funds to deal with the crisis, much of which would be used to house and transport the migrants who have crossed the border illegally.
He criticized the administration's approach saying spending should instead be focused on securing the borders and repealing the 2008 law that prevents the deportation of minors and their legal right to a court hearing.
"What they want to do is basically write a check for Barack Obama to spend on dealing with those who are already here and those who are coming," he said. "But what we really need to also do is improve our security mechanisms and repeal the laws that are creating this problem, particularly the law that passed back in 2008."
Rubio said that if those priorities are not met the illegal immigration crisis will be an ongoing issue.
"I recall not so long ago the president traveled to El Paso, Texas and stood at the border and claimed that it was secured and mocked those who said that it wasn't and what we've now seen is clear evidence that it isn't and it has actually set back efforts to address the fact that for example, our legal immigration system doesn't work well," Rubio said.
"We can't even begin to have a debate about that because you're not going to have the votes to address it until first the issue of illegal immigration is brought under control."
He added that any Senate legislation must begin with enforcement improvements, and he is encouraged by what he knows about the Republican-led House's approach to their own proposal for the emergency funding.
"The House proposal while I haven't reviewed at all in detail I understand does call for the establishment of metrics and a plan to achieve operational control of the border and I certainly think that's better than simply writing over a blank check," he said.
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