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Marco Rubio on Immigration


Modernize immigration to win global competition for talent

Q: The president said he was planning on taking executive action on immigration reform because the Congress wouldn't do anything.

RUBIO: I think that we have to deal with immigration. We have a broken enforcement system on immigration. We have a legal immigration system that's outdated and needs to be modernized so we can win the global competition for talent. We have millions of people living in this country illegally, many of whom have been here for a decade or longer. We need to find a reasonable but responsible way of incorporating them into American life. Last year we tried to do that through a one-size-fits-all comprehensive approach; it didn't work. We don't have the support for that. The only way we're going to be able to address it--and I believe we should--is through a sequence of bills that begins by proving to people that illegal immigration is under control, modernizing our legal immigration system and then dealing with those who are here illegally.

Source: Face the Nation 2014 interview: 2016 presidential hopefuls , Sep 7, 2014

Human trafficking law & deferred action caused border crisis

Q: House Republicans passed two measures, one to make it easier to deport those unaccompanied minors on the border, the other to block the president from deferring any more deportations. Isn't the GOP giving the country the "impression that its highest policy priority is to deport children"?

RUBIO: Well, I don't think that's an accurate assessment. We have an unsustainable situation on the border. The only way to address that is to address the root causes: a combination of violence, instability & poverty in Central America. But it's also, according to the president of Honduras, ambiguities in our laws--beginning in 2008 with a very well-intentioned law to prevent human trafficking--and then it continued in 2012 with the president's deferred action program. Those two things have allowed trafficking groups to go into Central America and tell people that America has some special law that's going to allow them to come here and stay, and that's serving as a lure that's driving this crisis.

Source: Fox News Sunday 2014 interview of 2016 presidential hopefuls , Aug 3, 2014

FactCheck: No MarcoPhones, and no executive DREAMers either

Bloggers claimed Marco's immigration bill would grant immigrants with work visas their own taxpayer-funded cell phones dubbed "MarcoPhones." The bill included grants aimed at helping American ranchers and others at risk of remote border violence get satellite phone service so they could be in touch with authorities. We rated the statement False.

As Rubio pushed immigration reform, he warned, "If nothing happens in Congress, this president will be tempted to issue an executive order like he did for the DREAM Act kids a year ago, where he basically legalizes 11 million people by the sign of a pen."

Most experts say that's an extreme scenario and would invite legal challenges as well as a political backlash. More likely is that Obama could extend deferred action to additional subsets of the undocumented population, pushing them lower on the priority list. That might be relief for them, but it's also a legal limbo that falls short of legalization. We rated Rubio's statement Mostly False.

Source: PolitiFact 2013 fact-checking on 2016 presidential hopefuls , Apr 19, 2014

Give kids of illegal immigrants in-state tuition rates

Recent moves by key party figures suggest agreement on broad principles, but still no consensus about what specific policies Republicans should champion.

Gov. Chris Christie parted with many of his fellow Republicans by signing a Democratic-backed law that would allow immigrants in the state illegally to qualify for in-state tuition rates. Christie argued it was common sense for the government to help immigrant children obtain college educations in order to maximize its investment.

Source: 2013 Los Angeles Times on 2016 presidential hopefuls , Jan 8, 2014

Border control: 90% apprehension and 100% surveillance

Q: The "Gang of 8" plan has a tough border enforcement component: 90% apprehension, 100% surveillance. How far are we from that now on our border?

RUBIO: It's important to understand, there is no one border. The border is broken into nine different sectors. In some sectors, that's probably being achieved today. But in others, it's not. At least three sectors are far from that number. And that's what the number needs to come up to. If [one sector] fails to reach our metric, then it will be turned over to a border commission made up of local officials from those states most impacted. They will have money set aside so they can solve it for those people themselves. So, we're confident it's achievable. But it's not just border security. E-Verify is part of this bill, a universal E-Verify. Another critical component is the entry/exit tracking system, because 40 percent of illegal immigrants are people that came legally and they overstayed. You have all three working together.

Source: Fox News Sunday 2013 interviews 2016 Presidential Hopefuls , Apr 14, 2013

Not amnesty: 15-year wait, plus fee, minus federal benefits

Q: While illegals are going to have to wait 15 years before they can become citizens, they get "probationary legal status." Isn't that amnesty?

RUBIO: [Illegal residents] don't get anything. What they get is the opportunity to apply for [citizenship]. They still have to pass the background checks; pay a registration fee; and they don't qualify for any federal benefits.

Q: Most people think once they have that status, even if it's called temporary, it's never going to get revoked.

RUBIO: Under the existing law today, if you are illegally in the US, you are not prohibited from getting citizenship. The only thing is, you have to go back to your home country, you have to wait 10 years. We're going to create an alternative that says, OK, you want to stay here, you have to wait more than 10 years, you have to be gainfully employed. It will be cheaper, faster and easier for people to go back home and wait 10 years than it will be to go through this process. And that's why it's not amnesty.

Source: Fox News Sunday 2013 interviews 2016 Presidential Hopefuls , Apr 14, 2013

Green cards after 10 years; secure border; & e-Verify

Q: The 1986 immigration reform has been criticized in hindsight as something that only encouraged undocumented workers to come into the US. We went from some 3 million undocumented workers in the Reagan era; now we're dealing with 11 million. What in this bill is going to ensure that that doesn't happen again?

RUBIO: Well, three things. First of all, a universal e-verify system which means you won't be able to find a job in the US if you can't pass that check. Second, an entry-exit system-- 40% of our immigration are people that enter legally and then overstay their visas. We don't really know who they are, because we don't track even when they leave. And third is real border security including fencing. And all three of these things are going to happen because they are triggers for the green card process. That's the incentive to ensure they happen. In essence, for those who are undocumented, they'll have to wait 10 years, and also wait until those three things are fully implemented.

Source: CNN SOTU 2013 interview series: 2016 presidential hopefuls , Apr 14, 2013

Compare reform to existing situation of 11 million illegals

Q: What happens to the 11 million immigrants who are in this country illegally?

RUBIO: First of all, I think it's important to point out this is not a theory. They are actually here. We are not talking about bringing millions of people here illegally. They are here now and they are going to be here for rest of their lives. The proposals in the past that some have advocated is to make their lives miserable so that they'll leave on their own or to basically ignore the problem which is happening now and is de facto amnesty.

Q: some Republicans are going to say that your plan is really just amnesty under another name. Is it?

RUBIO: Well, I think that that misses the point that under existing law, if you're illegally here, you can get a green card. We're saying, if you decide you wanted to stay here, you'll have to wait for more than 10 years. So I would argue that the existing law is actually more lenient than going through this process that we are outlining.

Source: CBS Face the Nation 2013 series: 2016 presidential hopefuls , Apr 14, 2013

Immigration is a human issue AND a law & order issue

Perhaps more than any other public policy issue, one's position on immigration often depends on one's encounters with immigrants. And certainly no public policy directly touches a greater number of lives than immigration. In a speech to the National Association of Latino Elected & Appointed Officials, Sen. Rubio made this point very eloquently:

"The people who are against illegal immigration and make that the core of their argument view it only as a law and order issue. But we know it's much more than that. Yes, it is a law & order issue, but it's also a human issue. These are real people. These are human beings who have children, and hopes, and dreams. These are people that are doing what virtually any of us would do if our children were hungry, if their countries were dangerous, if they had no hope for their future. And too often in our conversation about immigration that perspective is lost. Who among us would not do whatever it took to feed our children and provide for them a better future?"

Source: Immigration Wars, by Jeb Bush, p.146-147 , Mar 5, 2013

Leave immigration to feds; 50 sets of laws is worse

At a 2010 debate, [the moderator] asked me about several state immigration enforcement bills that Crist and others had accused me of blocking. I've always believed immigration is a federal issue, best left to the federal government. Our immigration system is a big enough mess as it is. Adding 50 different sets of state immigration laws would only make it worse. I believe border security and immigration policy are federal responsibilities, and as speaker I had said as much. But I had never blocked immigration bills introduced in the House. Most House members hadn't wanted to deal with them, especially since they knew there was no chance the Florida Senate would pass them.
Source: An American Son, by Marco Rubio, p.231 , Jun 19, 2012

English is de facto official language; let's recognize that

Virtually every important document in the US is written in English. English has been the predominant language since we were 13 separate colonies. It is our de facto official language, and I don't think there is anything wrong with recognizing that fact. Some people argue that declaring English to be our official language would prohibit other languages from being spoken in this country. But the government can't tell you what language to speak at home.

I think everyone should learn other languages. Knowledge of foreign languages is economically empowering and culturally rewarding. But English is our unifying language. We can all speak whatever language we like here. But we should have one language in common. Some critics argue that it's nativist or racist to support English as our official language. I think that's absurd. Learning to speak English is more than a sign of respect from immigrants for their new country. Knowledge of English is necessary to the economic progress and social assimilation.

Source: An American Son, by Marco Rubio, p.265 , Jun 19, 2012

AZ ant-immigrant law demands papers like "police state"

Rubio stuck to the strategy of courting the right wing of the national party, even though it became increasingly complicated to pull off at times. In April he likened a proposed Arizona law that allowed authorities to stop people and demand their immigration papers to a "police state." Latino activists decried the proposal as racial profiling.

But the measure was popular with the tea party activists and the Republican Party's right wing. Rubio chose the website Human Events, which was influential with the party's most conservative faction, to clarify his remarks in May 2010. The bill had been changed slightly to say that authorities could not "solely consider race" when asking for documents. Latino activists still considered the measure unsavory, but Rubio told Human Events he thought the revised bill "hit the right notes" and suggested he would have voted for it.

Source: The Rise of Marco Rubio, by Manuel Rogi-Franzia, p.163-164 , Jun 19, 2012

OpEd: Claimed falsely that parents fled Castro in 1959

In 2009, Rubio stated that his parents came from Cuba in 1959, but he also said that his mother returned to Cuba in 1960 to care for his grandfather after he was "hit by a bus." "When the time came to come home, the Cuban government wouldn't let her, Rubio said. "They would let my sister come because she was a US citizen, but they wouldn't let my brother and my mom come. And they would go to the airport every day for 9 months waiting to be let go, and then finally were able to come."

It was a dramatic story, but it wasn't supported by the documents. The Cuban passport of Rubio's mother showed she was never in the country for a 9 month period in the 1960's. The year of her return was also different--1960 instead of 1961.

Some Rubio allies argued that there was no difference between Cubans who came to the US before Castro and those who came afterward. Others pointed out that there were clear political advantages for Rubio in portraying himself as the son of parents who fled Castro.

Source: The Rise of Marco Rubio, by Manuel Rogi-Franzia, p.230-231 , Jun 19, 2012

Legal status, but not citizenship, to migrant's children

In spring 2012, Rubio revealed that he was developing a different version of the Dream Act that would grant legal status but not citizenship to migrants who were brought to the US as children and later enrolled in college or joined the military. Talking about the idea once again positioned Rubio as a leading Hispanic voice in the US. "I think the vast majority of Americans understand that if you were 4 years of when you were brought here, you grew up in this country your whole life, and you're now a valedictorian of a high school or are a high-achieving academic person, and have much to contribute to our future--I think most Americans, the vast majority of Americans, find that compelling and want to accommodate that."
Source: The Rise of Marco Rubio, by Manuel Rogi-Franzia, p.239 , Jun 19, 2012

GOP DREAM Act: visas for going to college or military

A new GOP effort led by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) to produce a scaled-back version of the DREAM Act is nothing more than election-year politics, argues Democratic Senate candidate Richard Carmona (Ariz.).

Carmona said, "I think it's a political calculation--that they recognized they cannot win their races and stay in office unless they embrace the Hispanic community."

The original DREAM Act would grant young people who were brought illegally to the US as children a path to citizenship provided that they attend college or serve in the military. Rubio's plan would provide not a path to citizenship but rather non-immigrant visas.

Rubio's spokesman said the proposal is a genuine effort to craft a bipartisan solution when it comes to the legal status of young undocumented immigrants. "Senator Rubio is working in good faith on legislation that can win bipartisan support and help undocumented kids who want to join the military or pursue higher education."

Source: Washington Post blog on Arizona Senate debate , Apr 26, 2012

AZ law may unreasonably single out some citizens

States certainly have the right to enact policies to protect their citizens, but Arizona's policy shows the difficulty and limitations of states trying to act piecemeal to solve what is a serious federal problem. From what I have read in news reports, I do have concerns about this legislation. While I don't believe Arizona's policy was based on anything other than trying to get a handle on our broken borders, I think aspects of the law, especially that dealing with 'reasonable suspicion,' are going to put our law enforcement officers in an incredibly difficult position. It could also unreasonably single out people who are here legally, including many American citizens. Throughout American history and throughout this administration we have seen that when government is given an inch it takes a mile.
Source: Talking Points Memo coverage of 2010 Florida Senate debate , Apr 27, 2010

Don't count illegal immigrants in the 2010 census

Rubio may have the experts on his side but there are political risks in Florida, just as there were when he disagreed with Crist and said illegal immigrants should not be counted in the 2010 census. That stance could cost the state millions in federal aid to cover services.
Source: St. Petersburg Times on 2010 Florida Senate debate , Apr 7, 2010

Allow children of illegals to pay in-state college tuition

Q: You say that you're against amnesty for illegals, but critics point out that as Speaker, you didn't bring to the floor several bills that would have cracked down on illegals and on employers who hire them. And you voted for a bill that would have allowed the children of illegals to pay the same college tuition as in-state residents.

RUBIO: The only place those bills ever got a hearing was on the floor of the House, and they didn't advance because the Senate didn't want to advance them. Gov. Crist didn't have an interest in them as well.

CRIST: I had an interest in them. How can you say what my interest was?

RUBIO: Well, I never saw you speak out.

Q: But you didn't bring several of these bills to the floor?

RUBIO: Well, they never go out of their committees.

Q: Some critics say you could have done more.

RUBIO: Well, we gave it a hearing. The support wasn't there among the membership at the time, & they were focused at that time on some very serious challenges in a 60-day session.

Source: Fox News Sunday 2010 Florida primary Senate debate , Mar 28, 2010

No amnesty in any form, not even back-of-the-line

The Republican Party, unfortunately, has been cast as the anti-illegal immigration party. It is not the anti-illegal immigration party. It is the pro-legal immigration party.

Having a legal immigration system that works begins with border security. That's not enough; about 1/3 of the folks in this country illegally enter legally & they overstay visas. So we've got to deal with that issue as well.

We've got to deal with the employment aspect of it, because the vast majority of people who enter thi country illegally do so in search of jobs, and jobs are being provided to them. So we need some level of verification system so that employers are required to verify the employment status of their folks.

As far as amnesty, that's where the governor and I disagree. He would have voted for the McCain plan. I think that plan is wrong. If you grant amnesty, in any form, whether it's back of the line or so forth, you will destroy any chance we will ever have of having a legal immigration system that works.

Source: Fox News Sunday 2010 Florida primary Senate debate , Mar 28, 2010

Oppose amnesty in any reform

Legal immigration has been a great source of strength and prosperity for America, but I believe illegal immigration threatens the foundation of this system. If I had been in the Senate at the time, I would have opposed the McCain-Kennedy bill. I believe we must fix our immigration system by first securing the border, fixing the visa and entry process and opposing amnesty in any reform.
Source: 2010 Senate campaign website,, "Issues" , Feb 3, 2010

Opposes granting amnesty to illegal immigrants.

Rubio opposes the F2A survey question on amnesty is "the nation's largest network of pro-family groups." They provide election resources for each state, including Voter Guides and Congressional Scorecards excerpted here. The Faith2Action survey summarizes candidate stances on the following topic: 'Granting amnesty to illegal immigrants '

Source: Faith2Action Survey 10-FF-q12b on Sep 19, 2010

Supports full implementation of current border security laws.

Rubio supports the F2A survey question on borders is "the nation's largest network of pro-family groups." They provide election resources for each state, including Voter Guides and Congressional Scorecards excerpted here. The Faith2Action survey summarizes candidate stances on the following topic: 'Full implementation of current border security laws'

Source: Faith2Action Survey 10-FF-q12c on Sep 19, 2010

Other candidates on Immigration: Marco Rubio on other issues:
Pres.Barack Obama
V.P.Joe Biden
2016 Democratic Candidates:
Secy.Hillary Clinton(NY)
Gov.Andrew Cuomo(NY)
Mayor Rahm Emanuel(IL)
Gov.Martin O`Malley(MD)
Gov.Deval Patrick(MA)
Sen.Bernie Sanders(VT)
Sen.Elizabeth Warren(MA)
Sen.James Webb(VA)
2016 GOP Candidates:
Amb.John Bolton(MD)
Gov.Jeb Bush(FL)
Dr.Ben Carson(MD)
Gov.Chris Christie(NJ)
Sen.Ted Cruz(TX)
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Sen.Rob Portman(OH)
Secy.Condi Rice(CA)
Sen.Marco Rubio(FL)
Rep.Paul Ryan(WI)
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Donald Trump(NY)
Gov.Scott Walker(WI)
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Page last updated: Jan 24, 2015