Rubio: Immigration Reform Unlikely Under Obama


PETER COOK, BLOOMBERG: How about immigration? It wasn't in your speech. I know you've talked a lot about it the last couple years, perhaps at your political peril. Do you still believe, as President Obama does, that this could be one of the single most important growth engines for the U.S. economy, comprehensive immigration reform?

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL): I do, and the speech didn't mention it because the speech was designed to unveil new ideas, things I hadn't talked about in the past. So, when I talk about a global competition, we're not just in global competition for investment. We're in global competition for talent. So, think about it this way. If the number one pick in the NBA Draft next year is from another country, there is no way in the world that person's going to have an immigration problem. We've never deported a 7-foot-2 center. We've never deported the best point guard in America. We've never done that. If we wouldn't do that in sports, why would we do that to our economy? So, we need to have an immigration system that is reformed so that it values the ability to contribute to our economy over what it's currently based upon, which is family reunification. There's still going to be an element of that, but I think it has to be primarily about building our economy and bringing people here that can contribute and help build our economy. I certainly think we have to improve the ways in which we enforce our immigration laws, and we do have a problem with 12 million human beings that live in the U.S. illegally, and that has to be addressed. We're not going to round up and deport 12 million people. I think the debate is not even about that anymore. The debate is about what should the consequences be for having violated our immigration laws. What is the process by which you integrate these people fully into the American society and prevent this from happening again in the future, and that's what's proved politically difficult.

COOK: Do you think it happens this year, and do you have any regrets at all that you were playing point man, for lack of a better term?

RUBIO: No, I don't have any regrets. My only regret on immigration reform is we couldn't arrive at a solution that brought on board more people, so that we could actually get it done. I think it's going to be very difficult now to do anything comprehensive in Washington. People don't like to hear this, but it's true given the lack of trust in this president that particularly Republicans have. The argument that we continue to hear is, you're going to go ahead and do the legalization, but that's going to be linked to enforcement, but then the president is going to pick and choose which parts of the enforcement he moves forward on and which ones he doesn't, and we're going to end up with all of the legalization and only half or none of the enforcement.

COOK: How about Sen. Schumer's idea that you just extend this past this president's term?

RUBIO: Yeah, that's not a serious proposal because in the interim what you're doing is you're leaving the problem unsolved for two and a half years. So, I think I have a better proposal, and my proposal is there's a bunch of things about immigration upon which there is not political controversy. Why don't we start doing those things? Why don't we modernize our legal immigration system? Why don't we improve our enforcement mechanisms? I think if we started to do that you would create momentum, and I think you would create the political space and confidence we need to ultimately finish the job.

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