In this Fox News Sunday Show With Chris Wallace: Sen. Rubio defends ‘Gang of 8’ immigration overhaul; Sens. Durbin, Cornyn on chances of bipartisan compromise
WALLACE: And hello again from Fox News in Washington.
The so-called “Gang of 8,” four Republican senators and four Democrats, releases its plan this week for a comprehensive immigration reform. At stake, border security, the status of immigrants in the country illegally and votes of millions of Hispanics. And not surprisingly, it’s already drawing heated criticism.
Joining us now, one of the architects of the plan, Senator Marco Rubio, who is in Coral Gables, Florida.
Senator, welcome back to “Fox News Sunday.”
SEN. MARCO RUBIO, R-FLA.: Good morning. Good to be back. Thank you.
WALLACE: The “Gang of 8” plan has a tough border enforcement component, 90 percent rate apprehension, 100 percent surveillance. How far are we from that now on our Southwest border?
RUBIO: Well, in some regions — it’s important to understand, there is no one border. The border is broken into nine different sectors. And in some sectors, that’s probably being achieved today for different measures. But in others, it’s not. At least three bor — three sectors are far from that number. And that’s what the number needs to come up to.
And as our plan is going to outline, if, in fact, it fails to reach out metric, then the homeland security will lose control of this issue and it will actually 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. It will take time.
But it also — it’s not just border security. You have to think about — E-Verify is part of this bill, a universal E-Verify. That’s a critical component of this as well, as the entry/exit tracking system, because 40 percent of illegal immigrants are people that came legally and they overstayed and we’re going to deal with that issue as well. You have all three work together and all three have to happen.
WALLACE: All right. Let’s go back to the border, though, just as an example. You say it’s a trigger, the number, 90 percent apprehension rate has to be certified by the Department of Homeland Security before the 11 million illegals, a decade from now, can begin to apply for green cards.
But the Democrats on your “Gang of 8”, including Dick Durbin, who will be on in the next segment, saying, no, it’s not a trigger. It’s just a goal that they have to be working towards.
Now, is it a trigger that has to be met or is it a goal?
RUBIO: Yes. Let me tell you why it’s a trigger because, basically, homeland security will have five years to meet that goal. If after five years, Homeland Security has not met that number, it will trigger the Border Commission who will then take over this issue for them. So, they’ll have five years to get it done. They have to create these two plans — a fence plan, there has to be a fence component to this, and a border security plan.
And if at the five-year mark, they have not achieved that 90 percent or 100 percent, then they lose the issue to the Border Commission who has money set aside so they can finish the job and they can get to that number.
And then, of course, understand that it also includes as part of the trigger, E-Verify, universal, and entry/exit. All three things have to happen, and they all three work together to ensure that this is the most effective enforcement system that this country has ever had, if we can get it done.
WALLACE: All right. Let’s look at the other side of this. While illegals are going to have to wait probably 15 years before they can become citizens, they get temporary legal status — I guess it’s called probationary legal status — as soon as the Department of Homeland Security announces it has this plan, that it’s going to begin this plan, and that’s within months.
Question, why isn’t that amnesty? Because, in fact, you’re giving legal status to people who have broken the law. And most people here in Washington think once they have that status, whether — even if it’s called temporary, it’s never going to get revoked, Senator.
RUBIO: Well, I think that’s where people are misunderstanding. They don’t get anything. What they get is the opportunity to apply for it. They still have to qualify for it. Meaning, they have to pass the background checks.
They have to be able to pay a registration fee. They have to pay a fine and then they have to renew it. This is not forever. This is a renewable thing.
And then they don’t qualify for any federal benefits. This is an important point. No federal benefits, no food stamps, no welfare, no ObamaCare. They have to prove they’re gainfully employed. They have to be able to support themselves, so they’ll never become a public charge.
These are all things that they have to do just to keep that status. And the only thing that happens is that they will have to stay in that status until at least 10 years elapses and the triggers are met. All that has to happen and then the only thing they get is a chance to apply for a green card via the legal immigration system. We do not award anything to anyone.
WALLACE: But, again, this is what the critics are saying, that once they have this, quote, “temporary legal status”, that nobody is ever going to revoke that and say, you know, once they’ve met the standards, you say, they paid back taxes, they paid a fine, they’ve got a job, that nobody is going to revoke that.
I want to put up on the screen what a critic said about the whole issue. “I would vote against anything that grants amnesty because I think it destroys your ability to enforce the existing law and I think it’s unfair to the people who are standing in line and waiting to come in legally.”
Senator, you said that back in 2009.
RUBIO: And I still agree with it. This is not amnesty. Amnesty is the forgiveness of something. Amnesty is anything that says do it illegally, it will be cheaper and easier.
Here’s what people need to understand. Under the existing law today, if you are illegally in the United States, you are not prohibited from getting a green card and ultimately getting a citizenship. The only thing is, you have to go back to your home country, you have to wait 10 years and then you can apply for it.
And all we’re saying is, we’re going to create an alternative to that. That will still be in place, but 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 pay this fine, you have to pay your registration fee, you have to be gainfully employed, you won’t qualify for any federal benefits. And then, after all of that, you don’t get to apply for anything until the enforcement mechanisms are in place.
And I would argue to you that 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 that I’ve outlined. And that’s why it’s not amnesty.
And bottom line is, we don’t award anything. You have to qualify. You have to apply for it. And that’s the key distinction.
So, I agree, if somehow being in the country illegally is cheaper, easier and quicker than doing it the right way, I wouldn’t support that. That’s why I haven’t supported certain efforts in the past, because I thought they did that.
WALLACE: All right. You have mentioned briefly, and I want to go into this a little bit more, the question of cost, because conservative critics, including the Heritage Foundation think tank, say that this plan, your plan, is going to be a budget buster. They say that these immigrants, once they get this temporary legal status, will be able to get all kinds of federal welfare programs, they’re going to qualify for ObamaCare, that this is going to be a big net drain on our Treasury.
RUBIO: OK. First of all, that’s — obviously that’s not — we don’t have a bill, so I don’t think they’ve issued an analysis on this yet, but that’s not true.
Under this plan, not only do you not qualify for any federal benefits while you’re in the legal status. Under existing law, you don’t qualify for any federal benefits during the first five years on a green card, either.
Second, in order to quality — in order to keep this legal status, you must be gainfully employed and you must be paying taxes.
Third, in order to get a green card in the future, you must prove you’ve been gainfully employed and that you can support yourself.
And so, the bottom line is that that’s just not accurate.
Now, here’s the other point I would make. Any — you know, conservatives love dynamic scoring, which is a complicated way of saying, you know, you look at a budget issue, not just for the cost but for the benefits associated with it. That’s what we’ve always pushed for. That’s why, for example, when we talk about tax cuts, we don’t think tax cuts cost the government money. We think tax cuts help the government generate more revenue because it creates economic growth.
All I’m asking for is that for this plan to be reviewed through the same standard, the same conservative dynamic scoring that we apply to tax cuts, because I am confident that if you do that, and some have already started doing that, you will find that when with we reform our legal immigration system, we get these people that are already here now paying their taxes and not taking anything out of the system, this will be a net positive for the country economically now and in the future. Otherwise, it’s not worth doing.
WALLACE: Senator, you clearly are at least considering running for president in 2016. Isn’t this —
RUBIO: Says who?
WALLACE: Pardon? What are you going to say, sir?
RUBIO: I said, says who?
WALLACE: Well —
RUBIO: I said, who says I’m considering that?
WALLACE: Are you considering it?
RUBIO: I told people I haven’t even thought about that. That’s a decision far in the future. At some point in 20 — you know, but, listen, I have to decide whether I want to run for reelection or get out of politics. But go ahead. I don’t mean to interrupt you.
WALLACE: OK, no, that’s all right. I interrupt you, you can interrupt me.
Question, though, let’s assume for a second, you’re at least considering the idea of running for president in 2016. Wouldn’t this hurt you in Republican primaries?
RUBIO: I don’t know. I haven’t really thought about it that way. I can tell you that I’ve been elected to do a job. My job in the Senate is not just to give speeches and do interviews, it’s to solve problems. And anyone who thinks that we have now in immigration is not a problem is fooling themselves.
What we have in place today is de facto amnesty. What we have in place today is not good for anyone except human traffickers and people who are hiring illegal aliens and paying them less than American workers. So, they’re the only people benefiting from the system that exists today. It’s bad for everybody else.
This is an issue that needs to be solved.
As far as those that are here undocumented, there are four options. We can try to round up people and deport them, which we know is not a doable thing for 11 million people.
We can make life miserable to them so that they’ll self report. Again, not a plan that I think necessarily works.
We can leave it the way it is now. We’ve talked about cost — it’s a lot more expensive to leave it the way it is now than to reform it.
Or we can try to figure out a way to deal with this issue, in a way that insures that this never happens again and that this isn’t unfair to people that are doing it the right way. And that’s what I’m working. I think that’s a very conservative position to hold and I think if we explain this to people and exactly what it does, we can gain a lot of support for this proposal. WALLACE: Senator, we’ve got a couple minutes left and I want to get through other issues. Let’s do a lightning round. Quick questions. Quick answers.
You voted this week to filibuster the gun bill. Does that mean that you will vote against the Manchin/Toomey compromise to expand background checks when that comes up this week?
RUBIO: Well, to be fair, I haven’t read it in totality. But I can tell you this, I am very skeptical of any plan that deals with the Second Amendment, because invariably, these gun laws end up impeding on the rights of people to bear arms who are law abiding and do nothing to keep criminals from buying them. Criminals don’t care what the law is.
WALLACE: But, Senator, you have supported background checks in the Florida legislature.
RUBIO: Yes. But, again, those background checks in Florida are for people that have concealed weapons permits. For example, if you have a concealed weapons permit, you do a background check. I have no problem with that.
But are they going to honor that in all 50 states? If someone goes to another state to buy a gun, do I have to undergo another background check or will my concealed weapons permit be de facto proof that I am not a criminal?
These are the sorts of things I hope we’ll talk about. But I think the bigger point is, we’re missing a golden opportunity here. We’re focusing so much on guns. We should be focused on violence. Violence is the problem.
Guns are what they’re using to commit violence but violence is the central problem. And no one they all want to talk about what they’re using, no one wants to talk about what is happening.
WALLACE: So, basically, in lightning round rules, how do you stop violence, Senator?
RUBIO: Well, I think we hope — I hope we’ll focus on mental illness. I hope we’ll focus on prosecution. Are we going to prosecute people that have tried to buy guns and failed a background check? If you’re not going to persecute them, then your law is useless.
I mean, these are the sorts of things we need to be focused on. And quite frankly, some of these solutions aren’t political. We need to take a good hard look at our culture, at the decline of the American family, at the impact it’s having not just economically on our society, but on the violence. Why are so many people desensitized to the murder and the suffering of others? Why is that happening in our country? I hope we’ll be honest about that and have a good conversation because we need to solve that.
WALLACE: Finally, Senator, in less than a minute left, you were one of the group of a dozen senators who had dinner this week with President Obama. Would you, excuse me, consider a grand bargain with serious entitlement reform, more serious than the president has offered so far, if the cost is that you get more taxes through limiting deductions?
RUBIO: Well, I don’t view it that way. I view it as economic growth. My goal is to get the economy to grow robustly because it’s the only way to solve our problem. I am believer that we can’t cut our way out of this and I’m a believer that we can’t tax our way out of this.
The only way out of this is robust economic growth, combined with fiscal discipline. If there’s a deal that does that, I’d love to support it. But if this is just a deal where we’re going to raise taxes that hurt growth, in exchange for, you know, some cosmetic changes to some other problem, obviously, I’m not going to support that.
The only thing I will support are programs that further economic growth. Growth is the only solution to our problem. We need to grow our economy at 4 percent to 5 percent a year sustained over 10 years. That will solve our problem. That’s what I hope we’ll work on.
WALLACE: Senator Rubio, we want to thank you so much for joining us today. We’ll be tracking immigration reform for months. Please come back, sir.
RUBIO: Thank you.
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