Speaking on the air to a skeptical Rush Limbaugh on Tuesday, Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio explained why conservatives should support his immigration reform proposals.
The issue was likely to be a front-burner fixture for President Barack Obama, the media and Senate Democrats, Rubio said, and Republicans need to show they aren’t anti-immigrant or anti-immigration.
“[T]he key is, this was going to be an issue,” Rubio said. “The president clearly outlined that he was going to push on this, the media was going to focus on this, the Senate Democrats were going to 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,” Rubio continued. “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 has 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 going to deal with this, let’s deal with it once and for all and in a way that this never, ever, happens again.”
Rubio insisted that border security would be a part of any effort he undertakes in the U.S. Senate.
“All I can tell you is that’s a big issue for me and that’s why I’m involved in this process,” Rubio said. “And ultimately, 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 happen. 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.”
Limbaugh, still skeptical, asked why Democrats wouldn’t maintain immigration as a wedge issue to maintain political gains. According to Rubio, the GOP’s involvement will help ensure the president and other Democrats can’t accomplish that.
“I will just say we’re going start finding out the answer to that question today by what he outlines and what he says,” Rubio replied, referring to Obama’s planned speech Tuesday in Nevada. “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 going to buy it.”
“Because the reality of it is we have put something that is very commonsense and reasonable. … 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 that we understand we have to fix this problem, but just because we’re for what you’re for doesn’t mean that we’re anti-immigrant and anti-immigration. And I think certainly it’s hard to make that argument to me.”
At the end of the interview, Limbaugh praised Rubio for staying on message.
“Senator, it wasn’t that long ago when 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,” Limbaugh said. “The country really does hinge on it, I think.”