HH: Pleased to begin the program today with United States Senator Marco Rubio, who I think is going to captain one of the most important pieces of legislation the country’s actually seen in ten years. Senator Rubio, welcome, it’s great to have you on the Hugh Hewitt Show.
MR: It’s great to be back with you.
HH: Senator, you did yeoman’s work this weekend, seven different shows, and I think probably the most important point is we can’t do nothing. How was the reaction especially among the conservative base to your appeal on that basic point?
MR: Well it’s a work in progress. I mean, look, I think there is a natural resistance to the idea that people who have violated our law, our immigration law, could somehow in any way, shape or form get to stay here. And you know, I share that concern. The problem is first of all, it’s a misunderstanding of current law. Under current law, if you violate the immigration laws, you are not prohibited for the rest of your life from ever getting a green card, or for becoming a citizen one day. This idea that if you’re illegally here you can’t get a green card is not true. What you have to do under current law is you have to leave the United States, and in ten years, you can get a green card. The problem is that we now have 10-11 million people by some estimates who are in this country illegally. Most have been here for five years or longer. That means they have U.S. citizen children, they own a home, they’re working. They have, now, roots in the United States. They are not going to leave. So in essence, they’ll just stay here the rest of their lives in this status that’s not good for anybody, including our country. And so what we decided to do, what I have decided to do, is to create an alternative way. If they’re not going to leave the country and wait ten years, then what is an alternative to that? And the alternative has to be more expensive, it has to take longer, and it quite frankly has to be harder, and that’s what we’ve done. If you are illegally in this country, you’ll have two choices now. You can leave the country and you can get your green card in ten years, or you can stay in the country, undergo a background check, pay an application fee, pay a fine, not be able to get any sort of federal benefits of any kind, including Obamacare. You’ll have to wait more than ten years, and then, after all that happens, the only thing you get is a chance to apply for a green card. It’s not awarded to you. You have to apply for a green card through a new and modernized legal immigration system that’s merit-based and modernized. So that’s really what we’ve worked on. The alternative is to leave it the way it is, which isn’t good for anyone, and quite frankly, is dangerous and bad for America.
HH: Now Senator, I say this, and I know you know this, there’s no one who has any idea who the terrorist was who attacked the Boston Marathon yesterday. We just don’t know. But one of the reasons I support regularization is we have got to get a handle on who is already in the country and find out whether or not they ought to be allowed to stay via background checks, etc. Have you heard that in the aftermath of another terrorist attack that we really do need to regularize people so we know who is who, and who should not be here?
MR: Well, let me, I’ve just been very careful about talking about Boston, because I have no idea of there’s any links whatsoever to anybody that’s an immigrant or what have you. We just don’t know. And so I think it’s dangerous to speculate. I will say that in general, on the broader issue, two things. Number one is this is about our sovereignty. A sovereign country is a country that can control its borders, and the ingress and egress of people and products. And we don’t have that right now. And that’s why I think these components that we have as far as security are so important. Number two, it’s a matter of logic. If you have 10 or 11 million people in this country, and a certain percentage of them are criminals and gang members and bad people, then what you want to do is you want to sift out the people that are not that. You want to basically say look, we’ve got this problem, we’ve got to deal with it, it’s none of our fault, it happened because of decisions that were made a decade or two ago. We’ve got to deal with it. But now, if you deal with it, and you legalize all of those people, and you identify and you document all of those people that are law-abiding people, that otherwise have just violated our immigration laws, but haven’t violated any other laws, then you now can concentrate your resources on going after the bad guys. Now you can concentrate your resources on deporting the dangerous criminals, the ones we have in jail, the ones that are out there gang-banging. And then that’s one of the reasons why I think this is so important, so we can sift through what we have here now and ensure that none of these bad guys are getting to stay.
HH: Now Senator, there really are two medias in America. There’s the English-speaking media of which we are a part right now, and then there’s the Spanish-speaking media. The largest radio show in Los Angeles, where my mother ship for my syndication is, is Spanish-speaking in the morning, morning drive. And those of us who only speak English have no idea what’s going on in that media. Yesterday, you went onto Univision and Telemundo, Spanish-speaking television networks. How was the reception to, or on Sunday, you did that. How was the reception to the outline of the plan? And what kind of questions and feedback do you get from those audiences?
MR: Well you know, there’s real concern about the lengths and the toughness of the plan, and they’re concerned about the fees, they’re concerned about the fine, they’re concerned about the length of time that people have to wait. But what I try to explain is that look, we are a compassionate country and a compassionate people. But there’s no such thing as a right to illegally immigrate to the United States. No one has a right to illegally immigrate here. The folks who are here illegally have violated our laws. And if we deal with this issue, if we end up accommodating them through some process, we’re doing so not because they have a right to be here illegally, but because number one, we’re a compassionate people, and number two, because it’s in our national interest. And I think when you explain that to people, they don’t necessarily always agree, but they understand, and I think it brings perspective to this issue, because I have seen some out there demanding their rights when it comes to immigration. The reality of it is there is no right to illegally immigrate here. But if we deal with this, we’re doing so because it’s in our national interest to deal with this. And I just don’t think, I also explain that what we have now isn’t good for anybody. Some of the people that are suffering the most under this system are the people that are illegally here, many of whom have been lied to or taken advantage of.
HH: There have been a number of articles in just recent days, both in the Wall Street Journal, written about a friend of mine, Kenton Beshore at Mariners Church in Orange County, and another one in the New York Times, on how Evangelicals have joined with long-standing Catholic tradition, I think of Archbishop Chaput in Philadelphia, to say America has to welcome the stranger. Have you noticed a change among people who live faith-based lives with regards to this issue?
MR: Yeah, first of all, I think obviously, it goes back to the argument that I made about why we’re addressing this issue. It’s not because anyone has a legal right to be here illegally. It’s because we’re a compassionate country, and at the heart of that compassion is our Judao-Christian foundations and traditions. I think the other real life implication is that as our churches, particular in the Evangelical communities have grown, they’ve become diverse. And quite frankly, some of the fastest growing churches in America are Hispanic Evangelical churches, in which there will be people that are illegally in the country. and I think this issue of illegal immigration changes for people when it goes from being a statistic to someone you actually know, to the father of a family whose been pulled over on a traffic stop, but otherwise is a law-abiding person, and is now going to be deported, to a family that’s been split, through the human tragedy that’s behind the illegal immigration problem. And I think once people meet someone in this predicament, it changes their views a little bit about it with regards to how and why we need to deal with it, and I think that’s increasingly happened across the country, but especially among Evangelicals who are attending church and are worshipping next to people whom may find themselves in this status. So I have noticed that it’s had an impact.
HH: I’ve also noticed, because I’ve been talking about this for a few weeks, that the same thing as happened in 2007 is happening, which is the amplification of the extreme. And I had one caller that’s memorable to my audience just hit, went from 0-60 in about 15 seconds, and was yelling at me because I support regularization. Have you begun to feel that, because in 2007, frankly, it overwhelmed the whole process. There was so much anger over this issue, it was a different time. There were a lot of different reasons. But have you begun to feel that yet?
MR: Well, first, I haven’t, but…and I’m sure there are people out there that are not happy with the direction this is going, would rather not see anything done at all, or would rather just do more enforcement. The argument that I make is that the laws we have now, even if we enforced them 100%, would still not be effective, because they’re not in line with the reality of the 21st Century. We need to modernize our legal immigration system. We have to have a merit-based system. It can no longer be simply one based on who you know on this side of the border. But beyond that, I would just say that the difference, I hope, between this effort and the one last time, is the last time, the effort was kind of cooked up among a group of senators, and then they brought it right to the floor for votes. This time, this is going to go, I mean, it won’t even start being considered in committee for another three and half to four weeks. And that’s going to be a lengthy process of amendments and debate. And then once it’s done in the committee, then it will go to the floor of the Senate, where it will once again be involved in a lengthy process of amendment and debate. And I just think doing it that way, in open, transparent and lengthy process, is a much more effective way to handle this issue. And that’s why I’m pushing so hard for more hearings, for a deliberative process, for an open and transparent process, because I think that allows people to gain some confidence and it makes people, it gives people a say in what it looks like in the end.
HH: Do you have, yet, a schedule for when it will be posted on the internet for people to look at?
MR: We’re hoping as early as tonight, and certainly by tomorrow morning, and then there will be two hearings on this issue already scheduled in the Judiciary Committee. One is Friday, another one’s Monday. And then the Judiciary Committee isn’t even going to begin to hear amendments on the bill until the week of May 7th, so that’s about three weeks away. And that’s just the amendments. I mean, that’s going to take a few weeks, you know, certainly multiple weeks to fully vet its way through the committee before it’s even ready for floor action. And then of course, the House, I mean, just because the Senate were to pass a bill, it doesn’t mean it becomes law. The House is going to have a say in all of this. So we’re interested to see what direction they go with this as well. So it’s going to be a while. This thing’s not going to be a rushed process.
HH: In a minute to our break, is there anyone on the House, I mentioned Raul Labrador on my post this morning, I think they ought to call this Rubio-Labrador. But are there any people in particular with whom you are working closely as you get close to the unveiling on the House side?
MR: You know, we’ve been in communication with Labrador, we’ve been in communication with Paul Ryan because of the budget implications of this. But we’ve really respected the House. They’ve got an independent way that they want to address it. I think that just the little we know about their process, they’ve also deliberately kept details out of the newspapers, because they don’t want to betray confidences yet over there on this issue. But I think they’re very similar in their approach. There’ll be some differences, I think some significant differences, but they’ll have to pass a bill, too, and then we’re going to have to work out those differences. That’s why I’m telling you this is going to take a while.
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HH: We could talk about important things about the Dolphins trading up to take the Browns’ position at number six in the NFL draft, Senator, and there are lots of other things, but I want to go to the Twitter feed. Glenn Moragas, who’s got a Steelers logo, so he doesn’t know much about anything, obviously, says please press him on immigration, make sure he includes border security. What is the response to, I’m sure you’re hearing that a lot, Senator…
HH: …the concerns about border security?
MR: Yeah, well first of all, it’s one of the triggers to the bill. In essence, no one gets even, obviously, we require everyone who is illegally in the country to apply for this temporary permit, they have to renew it at the six year point where they have to prove they’ve been paying taxes, and are not, are gainfully employed, they don’t qualify for any federal benefits. They have to undergo a background check. But what happens is that for them, even after ten years has elapsed, no one will be able to apply for a green card if the border is not, if the full border plans have not been fully implemented, in addition to e-verify. And they’re related, because one of the reasons why people cross the border is to get jobs. But if you can’t find a job in the U.S. because the penalties are so extensive on an employer that violates the e-verify process, that’s going to slow down the traffic at the border. Here’s what we do with the border. We mandate that the Department of Homeland Security create two separate plans that achieve the following. They have to achieve 100% operational awareness. In essence, they have to be able to see the entire border, all nine sectors, and they have to prove that they are apprehending nine out of ten people that are illegally crossing it. And they’ve got to create two plans – a fencing plan specifically, because we don’t want them to leave out fencing, and also a border, general border security plan. If they don’t achieve that within five years, then DHS, the Department of Homeland Security, loses control of the border issue, it is turned over to a border commission made up of primarily the governors of the four states on the border who are dealing with this firsthand, and we set aside money in escrow so they can go in and finish the job of border security. And I promise you, if you turn, if DHS doesn’t do this job and you turn it over to the people that are locally elected, like the governors, the attorneys general, the people on the ground that are dealing with this, they will know how to fix it if DHS doesn’t do it. And as I said, that works in conjunction with the e-verify program, because under e-verify, if you’re not documented, you won’t be able to find a job here unless people are willing to get double, you know, we’re doubling the fines. And in fact, some people will face criminal penalty if they’re knowingly violating the e-verify law.
HH: Senator Rubio, my support or not for this bill will probably turn on those provisions with regards to fencing. And I saw in the New York Times today $5.5 billion is being allocated, and there will be specifics in this plan. But in terms of that, you know, we were promised fencing before, and I know you’re aware that there was a bill in 2006.
HH: It turned out to be a charade. How are you going to persuade people that this time, we really mean it?
MR: Well, a couple of things. Number one, it’s a trigger, so it has to happen. Two things are built in to ensure that they actually do it. One is the General Accounting Office is going to comment on, and input on, an overview of, and a review of the plans that are created by Homeland Security to deal with the border. Second, we have this border commission not of bureaucrats, but of prominent elected officials, the governor of these four border states – Rick Perry and Susanna Martinez and Jan Brewer, and they’re going to be initially as an advisory panel. So if in fact the plans that border security comes up with are not real plans that won’t accomplish anything, they’re going to call it out for what it is early in the process. And then, here’s the second point, we’re going to measure it. If at the five year mark, understand, this is five years before even a single green card will be eligible to be delivered, if at the five year mark they are not, they cannot prove that they can see 100% of all nine sectors, and that they are not stopping nine out of ten people that are crossing it, then they lose control of the border issue, and it’s turned over to these governors on the border to finish the job, and we set aside money for them to do it. The key is that the carrot here is that what the left really wants is this legalization process would give people green cards. That can’t happen until border plans are fully implemented. That means the border security plan, the border fence plan, the border commission plan, until e-verify is fully implemented, and until the entry/exit system is fully implemented. And in additional to all of that, for the first time in modern history, we will have a viable temporary worker program where people can come to the country legally. They don’t have to come across the border illegally anymore to work on a farm, because there’s going to be a system in place where they can come, they can work for a few months, and then they can go back home without worrying about having to hire a smuggler to bring them in.
HH: Now let me deter for a second. CNN reporting at this hour that a suspicious letter has been received at the Senate that tested positive for ricin. Have you been alerted to that at all, Senator?
MR: Yeah, unfortunately, it was through media reports as well. It’s not our office, and the good news is that it never made it into the building. Apparently it was intercepted in an offsite mail facility. But we have been alerted to that, and obviously it’s concerning in light of what happened yesterday.
HH: And have you had any other special briefings for the senators on additional awareness of threats connected, obviously, with Boston terrorism and now this ricin letter?
MR: Well, the truth is I sit on the Senate Intelligence Committee, and we meet two, three times a week. We had a couple of meetings today. The bottom line is, and I never discuss what we talk about in there, but just the bottom line on the issue of yesterday is you know, right now, we know what the general public knows, which is we don’t know. We don’t know who did this, we don’t know why they did it. I have full confidence in the FBI and the agencies that are investigating it. We will find out who did this and their motivation. I think some patience is required in this regard, but I think no matter what, and I’m not linking this to the attack on Boston, do not be, and have any illusion. There are terrible criminals both in this country and abroad who plot constantly and incessantly against the United States. In essence, there are multiple interests all over the world that want to strike at us, whether it’s in the U.S. Senate, whether it’s Boston, whether it’s somewhere else. I mean, do not, we should not be under any illusion in that regard.
HH: Congressman Steven King, Republican of Iowa, earlier today told National Review some of the speculation about Boston has come out that yes, it was a foreign national, speculating that it was potentially a person on a student visa. If that’s the case, then we need to take a look at the big picture. If we can’t background check people that are coming from Saudi Arabia, how do we think we’re going to background check the 11-20 million people that are here from who knows where? Since that time, we know it’s not the Saudi Arabian student that was a “person of interest”. Nevertheless, I don’t think it follows that whoever is behind Boston implies any kind of slowdown in our desire to background check, Senator Rubio. Your response to this?
MR: Well first of all, you can’t, all background checks can tell you is what people have done in the past. I think that’s true no matter what. It can’t always predict what someone will decide to do in the future, and we know that one of the risks we run is home grown terrorist threats, in essence, people that are born and raised their entire life in the United States, that are being recruited online and being radicalized online. We know that that’s a threat. We’re aware of that. We’ve been talking about that. That’s a problem. And so I don’t think that’s an immigration bill problem. I think that’s a problem that the modern threat of terrorism poses our country. I just think it’s very dangerous to link Boston to anything with regards to this immigration reform system. I certainly think that, I actually think it adds credence to the argument that we need to move forward on this, because we have a broken process. We literally have 10 or 11 million people living in the United States. Now please, I want to be very clear, I’m not making any connection between immigration and the attack on Boston. I’m just speaking in general terms now about national security and the national interest of the United States. It is not good for this country to have 10 or 11 million people living here who we don’t know who they are, we have no idea where they are or why they’re here. The vast, enormous and overwhelming majority are people that are here to work and improve their lives. But we need to figure out who they are so that they can start paying taxes, and so we can ensure that this never ever happens again, that we never find ourselves in this position again.
HH: Thank you, Senator Rubio. Last question, who do you want the Dolphins to draft?
MR: You know, obviously I think the core positions for drafts should be pass rushers and cornerbacks and quarterbacks and things like that. But I have a sneaking suspicion they’re going to draft an offensive lineman, and there’s three really good tackles in the draft, and a couple of good guards.
HH: And that’s why they need to trade up with…
MR: That’s not very sexy, but that’s a solid place to be.
HH: No, that’s why they need to trade up with the Browns to number six.
MR: Well, we’ve got the ammunition to do it.
HH: We’ll talk with you again later. Thank you, Senator
End of interview.