WASHINGTON — Florida Sen. Marco Rubio addressed conservative complaints over border security in the Senate immigration reform bill Wednesday, calling allegations doubting its effectiveness “not true.”
“We have a border with Mexico that despite billions of dollars that have already been spent, it’s still not secure,” the Republican “Gang of Eight” senator said. “This proposal mandates the most ambitious border and interior security measures in our nation’s history.”
In a speech on the Senate floor, on a day when the Hoeven-Corker “border surge” amendment was approved, adding $40 billion in new border security provisions, Rubio said the current immigration system encourages illegal immigration — trafficking people, drugs and guns across the border every day.
Eleven million unregistered people that do not pay taxes and face little threat of prosecution are living in the U.S. illegally in what Rubio described as “de facto amnesty.”
“What I’m describing — this is the way things are now. This is the status quo — and it is a terrible mess,” Rubio said.
Rubio went on to address claims by conservatives, including Republican Senate colleague Chuck Grassley from Iowa, that the “border surge” amendment is unenforceable and full of loopholes. According to Grassley, passage will repeat the same mistakes of the 1986 immigration reform law — promising border security after legalization status.
“It continues false promises of a secured border. It ought to be enforcement now and legalization later,” Grassley said before the vote Wednesday.
Citing the immigration bill Rubio co-sponsored and co-wrote, the “Gang of Eight” Republican assured critics that the 11 million current undocumented immigrants will only receive work permits during the first decade of the bill, and will not be eligible for permanent status until after the “border surge” provisions are in place.
Grassley and other Senate Republicans also claim the bill has no Homeland Security teeth, and that the secretary can ignore the border requirement and waive the technology called for in the bill.
“But that’s just not true. The secretary can always add more to the plan, but the list of border security measures we mandate in the legislation is the minimum that must be implemented,” Rubio said.
Further criticisms included future Congress’ ability to defund the bill, that it contains taxpayer-funded subsidies for cars or scooters, and that no one has read what media outlets describe as “a brand new 1100 page bill” — all of which Rubio described as “not true.”
According to Rubio and other Senate Republicans, the money is front loaded into the bill, and cannot be defunded like past border security laws. It contains no vehicle subsidy provision, and is the same bill that’s been available to read for 10 weeks. The only addition being 120 pages of amendments, including those on border security Republicans demanded for passage.
“What’s going to happen (without immigration reform) is we’ll still have a broken immigration system, we won’t have more border patrol officers, we won’t have enough fencing, we still won’t have mandatory E-verify, and we’ll still have 11 million people living here illegally. And that’s why I’m involved in this,” Rubio said.