GOP presidential candidate Marco Rubio said Friday no one has a “right” to live or immigrate to the United States.
“You don’t have a right to illegally immigrate here,” the Republican senator said at a National Review Institute event, saying he has a problem with immigration reform advocates who say people in the country illegally have a right to stay.
“It’s not a right,” he added. “What you are appealing to is the best interest of the country. You are appealing to our morality as people. But you can’t appeal to a right. There is no right to illegally immigrate anywhere in the world.”
Attorney General Loretta Lynch, although she stopped short of saying illegal immigrants have a right to be in the country, said in her Senate confirmation hearing that those already here do have a “right and obligation” to work.
Rubio said we must be “reasonable” about the problem posed by illegal immigrants already in the country, and that after “securing the border” and “modernizing” the legal immigration system, he would grant them a path to citizenship.
Those here a decade or more would have to undergo a strict background check, pay a fine, start paying taxes and learn English to earn permanent legal status, he said. Eventually they could “get in line” and apply for citizenship under the same rules as everyone else.
Like most of the other top GOP contenders, Rubio is a strong advocate of legal immigration and wants to dramatically increase the number of high-skilled temporary workers allowed into the country. (RELATED: Where Cruz Stands With Rubio Against Walker On Immigration)
The foreign-born population (legal and illegal immigrants) in the U.S. has increased 325 percent since 1970, according to the Congressional Research Service, and the Census Bureau recently projected it will hit 51 million by 2023 — the largest share of total population ever recorded in American history. (RELATED: Wages Declined As Immigration Surged)
Asked about the challenge of assimilating the huge numbers of immigrants coming into the country, he acknowledged the struggle, but said it’s also difficult to assimilate people born here and pivoted to his larger message that America is a special country.
“We have a challenge in this country assimilating people who are born and raised here too,” he said. “We’ve got tests in our own schools that teach that America’s not special, and I think that’s a big problem.”
Rubio said the system should be reformed, based on economic realities, to prioritize skilled workers over those with family ties, so that the top talent in the world is incentivized not only to work and live in the U.S., but also to become citizens.
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