RUSH: We welcome to the program Florida Senator Marco Rubio. Senator, great to have you here on the EIB Network. I think it’s your second or third time here. It’s always great.
RUBIO: Yeah, it is, being on the program. I’ve been listening to it for a while. I don’t want to tell you how long because then you’ll feel older than you really are.
RUSH: No, the longer the better.
RUBIO: I remember the TV program. Do you remember your TV program?
RUSH: That’s way back. (laughing) That’s twenty years. Anyway, I know your time is limited and I want to get straight to the immigration issue. The first question I have for you is, why are we doing this? It seems like Washington has a pattern, and that is, when the Democrats want to do something, the media gets behind it, the Democrats get behind it, and it becomes something that has to be done and therefore the Democrats set the stage, they start the ball in motion. The Republicans then react to it, say, “Okay, that’s what you want to do, we’ll do it, but here’s our way of doing it.” Why are we doing this now?
RUBIO: Well, actually, to avoid that problem, and, in fact, that’s why I’ve tried to do it in the reverse. You’re absolutely right, but here’s the key. The key is this was going to be an issue. The president clearly outlined that he was gonna push on this, the media was gonna focus on this, the Senate Democrats were gonna push on this issue, and I thought it was critically important that we outline the principles of what reform is about. Look, I think there’s this false argument that’s been advanced by the left that conservatism and Republicans are anti-immigrant and anti-immigration. And we’re not. Never have been.
On the contrary, we are pro-legal immigration. And we recognize that our legal immigration system needs to be reformed. We also recognize, because conservatism’s always been about common sense, that we do have an existing problem that needs to be dealt with in the best way possible. Now, it was dealt with in 1986 in a way that was counterproductive. Well-intentioned, but counterproductive because, A, they granted a blanket amnesty to three million people at the time, or that was the estimate, and, B, they didn’t do any of the enforcement mechanisms. And so our point is if we’re gonna deal with this, let’s deal with it once and for all and in a way that this never, ever, happens again.
RUSH: Right, but —
RUBIO: In the absence of stepping forward with our own principles, the left and the president will tell people what we stand for, and it’s not necessarily gonna be true.
RUSH: Yeah, but, Senator, that’s in a way the point, because, you’re right, 1986, President Reagan agreed to outright amnesty, is called Simpson-Mazzoli. He was reluctant, by the way, but he did it, because he was promised border security. The border security never happened. And the same language is being used today as was used in 1986. You know, the president’s gonna be out in Las Vegas today, I know for you border security is the first and last, if that doesn’t happen, none of the rest does, right?
RUBIO: Well, not just that. That alone is not enough. It has to be a combination. We need border security. We need workplace enforcement. We need a visa tracking system. You know, 40% of our illegal immigrants of our undocumented people that are in this country, they didn’t cross the border, they came legally. Their visa expired and they stayed and we don’t track people when they leave. We only track them when they come in. So all three of those things have to happen and, by the way, the language of the bill has not even been drafted yet. These are just principles. And I agree with you; this is gonna be a challenge. If, in fact, this bill does not have real triggers in there, if there is not language in this bill that guarantees that nothing else will happen unless these enforcement mechanisms are in place, I won’t support it. But the principles clearly call for that. Now, obviously, we have to make sure the law does, too.
RUSH: The fear that many people have is that the Democrats aren’t interested in border security, that they want this influx. For example, if 70% of the Hispanic vote went Republican, do you think the Democrats would be for any part of this legislation?
RUBIO: (laughing) Well, let me make an argument to you on that. People always say to me, “Well, aren’t you worried about the political implications?” I am confident, I really am, maybe people don’t share this confidence, I am confident that, given a fair chance, I can convince most Americans, including Americans of Hispanic descent, that limited government and free enterprise is better for them and better for their upward mobility than Big Government is. Because that’s the reason why they came here. You look at people that come from Latin America. They come to get away from stale stagnant economies where the rich keep winning and everybody else keeps working for them because Big Government dominates those economies. I just wanted to say, to the point of them not wanting to do the security, look, all I can tell you is that that’s a big issue for me and that’s why I’m involved in this process. I have no reason to believe it won’t happen, but if it doesn’t, then I’ll come back to you and say, “Look, it didn’t. We tried. They put that in the principles, but then they drafted a bill that didn’t do it, and I couldn’t support it.”
RUSH: Well, is that the reason that a majority of immigrants come to this country today? I know it used to be. They wanted to be Americans. They wanted to escape oppression. They wanted to become citizens of the greatest country on earth. I’ve seen a number of research, scholarly research data, which says that a vast majority of arriving immigrants today come here because they believe that government is the source of prosperity, and that’s what they support. It’s not about conservative principles and so forth, not the way it used to be. Are the Republicans stuck in the past in misjudging why the country is attractive to immigrants today?
RUBIO: You know, our argument about limited government is always harder to sell than a government program. It always has been. I mean, it’s easier to sell cotton candy than it is to sell broccoli to somebody, but the broccoli is better for you, and the same thing with a limited government. Yeah, it’s a lot easier for a politician to sell people on how a big government program is gonna make their life better, but I think ours, once we sell it, is more enduring and more permanent and better for the country. It is a challenge. And, by the way, it’s not just a challenge for people that are immigrating here, it’s a challenge for people that are born here. We have a real fight on our hands to convince the American people that limited government and free enterprise is the right thing for our future. I think that’s a real challenge across the board given some things that have happened in our society.
But look, I don’t know. I haven’t done a scholarly study on the makeup. I can only tell you about the people I interact with, and I can tell you the folks I interact with, once they get into this country and they start to work and they open up their own business, they start to understand the cost of Big Government. I see it every day firsthand from people that have been here about eight to ten years. All of a sudden, they have their own business, they have a bunch of permits that they have to comply with, a bunch of complicated laws. Their taxes just went up a couple of weeks ago even though President Obama has been saying it’s only gonna go up on the rich, and the light bulb is going off that, in fact, Big Government, you know, rich means them even though they’re middle class and Big Government means less opportunity for them. So we have work to do, there’s no doubt about it.
RUSH: Well, let’s get back to the politics of this.
RUSH: The president’s in Las Vegas today and he’s promised that he’s not gonna do border security first. He’s not in any way interested in it, and therefore my question is, the word “compromise” is thrown around, we have to compromise, seek common ground, where is the common ground? I don’t see it. I don’t see where you have — and by “you,” I mean the Republicans —
RUSH: — I don’t see where there’s any commonality in what the president wants and what you want.
RUBIO: Well, you know, Rush, that’s an interesting point. The president has an important decision to make here in about an hour when he gives his speech. He can either decide that he wants to be part of a solution, or he can decide he wants to be part of a political issue and try to trigger a bidding war. I’m not gonna be part of a bidding war to see who can come up with the most lenient path forward. I think we should be for a reasonable path that’s good for Americans, that’s fair to the people that come here legally every year, a million people who come every year legally. No other country is nearly as generous, and we’ve got four Democratic senators who, in writing, have committed to the same principles.
Now, in flushing out and creating a law, which is not written yet, by the way, and it will be some time before it is, if it doesn’t work out that’s one thing. But the president has a choice to make today. If he goes to Las Vegas, which I’m not sure why he didn’t do it in Washington, but if he’s gone to Las Vegas to give a speech and try to trigger a bidding war, then, no, it doesn’t bode well. There won’t be a solution. We’ll just continue to have what we have now, because that issue I think is a bright line for most of us that are involved in this effort, that unless there is real enforcement triggers, we are not gonna have a bill that moves on to the next — you know, to the opportunity to apply for a green card.
RUSH: Well, he’s gonna be in Vegas today and he’s gonna make it plain he opposes enforcement of any kind, triggers or otherwise, and as such, it sounds to me —
RUBIO: He’s got a problem with his own party, ’cause he’s got four senators, including four senators that agree with him on most things, who have signed a document that says that they do agree on enforcement triggers. So that’s something they’re gonna have to work out.
RUSH: Maybe, but I think at the end of the day all those four senators and the president are gonna relish the opportunity to continue to beat the Republicans up for two more years in hopes of winning the House. You know what they’re gonna say, for two more years, you’re anti-Hispanic, you will not compromise, you will not meet the president halfway. He’ll have his straw men, his straw dogs, he’s talk about a balanced approach and claim you guys aren’t interested in it, while he is the one who’s put the roadblock up. So the question is, does he really want any kind of a solution to the problem, or is this really attractive to him as an ongoing issue for him to fulfill his dream of just eliminating any viable political opposition in the media, the Republican Party, or whatever, because they’ve admitted that that’s what their objective is. Just wipe you guys out.
RUBIO: On your question, I will just say we’re gonna start finding out the answer to that question today by what he outlines and what he says. And on your first point about them beating us up for two years if there’s not an agreement, that’s precisely why I thought it was important that our principles be out there early. They can try to sell that, but I doubt people are gonna buy it because the reality is we have put something that is very common sense and reasonable. If you take our principles, 70% of the American people would agree, if not more, with the general principles that we have outlined. And if they want to go further than that, then I think they’ve got a problem because they can’t argue that we haven’t tried to do our part to come up with something reasonable here, which has always been our point.
Our point has always been we understand we have to fix this problem, but just because we’re not for what you’re for, doesn’t mean that we’re anti-immigrant and anti-immigration. And I think it’s certainly hard to make that argument to me, someone whose family are immigrants, married into a family of immigrants, my neighbors are immigrants. I’ve grown up around it my whole life. I didn’t read about this in a book. I live this every day. I’ve seen the good that legal immigration has done for our country and I see the strain that illegal immigration places on our country.
RUSH: Well, what you are doing is admirable and noteworthy. You are recognizing reality. You’re trumpeting it, you’re shouting it. My concern is the president wants to change the reality. My concern is the president wants people to believe something that isn’t true is, and that is that you guys are not being truthful of what you say, that you really don’t want an improved life for Hispanics, that you really are still racist. He’s not gonna give that up. Look how far he’s gotten with this so far. You know, it’s an enviable task that you’ve got. These eight senators, you’re part of this Group of Eight. This legislation that you’ve admitted is not written, but you’re here on the radio today, you’ve been doing a lot of media, who are you trying to reach with this?
RUBIO: In terms of the —
RUSH: The bill. You talking Hispanics, illegals, are you talking the American people, who are you talking to?
RUBIO: Yeah. Well, first of all, what I want is I want people to understand what the principles are for and what they’re not for. I think it’s clearly important that, you know, one of the tasks that you do in your role here on the radio with the many listeners that you have is to inform people about what’s really happening, and I want people to clearly understand what the principles are and what they are not, and I want them to understand the decisions that have yet to be made with regards to this bill and the way it’s written.
The next step in this process is to craft a starting point of legislation, and then after that it’s gonna have to go through committees and people are gonna have their input. There’s gonna be public hearings. I don’t want to be part of a process that comes up with some bill in secret and brings it to the floor and gives people a take it or leave it. I want this place to work the way it’s supposed to work, with every senator having input and the public having input. And then obviously the House is gonna have their imprint on this as well. And I think information empowers people to make the judgments on the best direction for our country. And unfortunately, and you’ve outlined this earlier in your description of it, where things are often demagogued or described in a way that are not accurate. I think the more people are aware about what we’re for and what we’re not for, the more empowered we are as a movement as those of us that believe in limited government and conservatism to make a better argument for our position versus theirs.
RUSH: What do you think the result will be if this effort fails?
RUBIO: Well, it depends on how it fails. I think right now the president has a decision to make. If today becomes the beginning of a bidding war where he tries to be even more liberal than members of his own party and the Senate, then I think we clearly know what his intentions are and I don’t think that’s gonna be a good development. If, on the other hand, this thing moves forward with plenty of input, it’s not gonna look at the end the way it looks now because it’s gonna have a lot of input. My sense is it depends on who’s involved and who’s engaged in bringing that input. I’ll give you a perfect example, and this is an issue we should start looking at now.
According to the law today, if you are a lawfully present in the country but you are not a green card holder, you do not qualify for any federal benefits. That’s existing law. And so that means that the folks that are gonna be in this probationary stage that’s in our principles, they don’t qualify for any federal benefits except for one, Obamacare. Obamacare is the only federal benefit where you qualify for it, not because you have a green card but only because you’re lawfully present. That issue needs to be resolved because if Obamacare is available to 11 million people, it blows a hole in our budget and makes this bill undoable. That’s one of the major issues we’re gonna have to confront.
Another major issue is the security triggers. Is a cosmetic security trigger or is it a real enforcement trigger? The language matters in that regard. We need to be involved in that discussion as well. And we have to make sure that nothing that’s done here discourages people from coming illegally in the future or is unfair to the people that are trying to come legally now. And that’s gonna be hard to do as well because the language has to reflect the intention. So there’s a lot of work to be done here. We are nowhere near the finish line, but I think outlining our principles is important because it takes away the ability of the other side to mischaracterize what we’re for and what we’re against.
RUSH: Well, you have a difficult job ahead of you because you are meeting everybody honestly, forthrightly, halfway, you’re seeking compromise. Obama is seeking political victory. Obama doesn’t care about enforcing exist law, so people say, “Why will he enforce anything that’s new?” He sued Arizona for simply trying to enforce existing federal law. You’ve got a tough job ahead of you.
RUBIO: Yeah. I just remind everybody, Obama’s not gonna be president forever. As long as these next four years may seem, he won’t be president forever. We’ll have another president one day, and we have to write laws with that in mind as well. And the other point I’d make to you, Rush, is I know this is a tough issue. I do. I know why people are uncomfortable about it. It doesn’t feel right, in some instances, to allow people who have come here undocumented to be able to stay. I know some people are uncomfortable with that notion. This is a tough issue to work through. But I would just say this to you, if this country goes downhill, there’s nowhere else in the world. I mean there’s nothing else, there’s no replacement for it.
There’s no alternative to America. It’s either us or no one. And anytime I see anything that’s harmful to America as a policy maker, I try to make it better, you know, sometimes you succeed, sometimes you fail. But either we succeed or we’re going to be the generation that’s held responsible for allowing the most incredible nation in human history to decline, and I certainly want to do everything I can to avoid that from happening. I think this is a significant challenge that we face. I know the president’s gonna take us in a direction that I would not be comfortable with and I don’t think it’s good for America. I’m just trying to do the best I can with what’s already a tough situation. So I pray it works out. I can’t guarantee that it will, but we’re gonna do our best.
RUSH: Senator, it wasn’t that long ago where your message was what this country was. It wasn’t that long ago where your message was a winner, where your message defined this country, and I wish you all the best in reviving it. The country really does hinge on it, I think, so the best to you, and good luck.
RUBIO: Thank you for the opportunity, Rush. I appreciate it.