Marco Rubio Questions House Republicans' Immigration Push

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), the lead Republican member of the Senate’s “Gang of Eight,” questioned Thursday morning whether House GOP leadership should move on immigration legislation in 2014.

Appearing on Laura Ingraham’s radio program, Rubio seemed to backtrack even further than he already has from his previous outspoken support for an immigration reform package in the 113th Congress. When Ingraham asked him about new Gallup polling data showing Americans hardly consider immigration legislation even close to a priority in 2014, Rubio said that rather than talking about or working on immigration, Republicans should spend the majority of their time on the economy.

“Well, first of all, there’s no doubt that the biggest issue we face is an economy that’s leaving people insecure about the future of the American dream that’s under duress, and that a majority of our time should be spent on that,” Rubio said when asked to respond to the new Gallup data. “There are legitimate issues on immigration. There’s an enforcement issue that needs to be addressed.”

Ingraham then cut in to say about interior enforcement and border security, “Obama’s not going to do that, Senator Rubio. You know he’s not going to do that. He goes and does end runs around everything.”

Rubio responded by saying President Barack Obama’s consistent selective enforcement of laws, from Obamacare to immigration laws themselves, will end up undermining any chance of immigration reform during his presidency.

“Well that’s the fundamental problem,” Rubio said in response to Ingraham’s point about how Obama will not enforce interior immigration laws or secure the border, even if it is in the law. 

Let me – we have a legal immigration system that doesn’t work and we do have people who are here illegally. Here’s the fundamental problem with this issue that I think keeps it from moving forward: People say to you, and it’s hard to argue against it at this point given what’s happened over the last year, what they say is it doesn’t matter what the law says, this administration won’t enforce it; they’ve proven it time and again on Obamacare. You can write one thing in the law they’ll ignore. How do you argue against that? Even people who would like to do something on this are finding it difficult to argue against that.

Rubio then started saying that he thinks “there are a lot of issues that are not controversial about immigration” like “STEM visas.”

Ingraham cut in again to correct Rubio and point out that Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) visas are in fact a controversial issue. “It is controversial,” she said. 

We have engineers who haven’t seen wage increases in six or seven years. My brother works at MIT. Believe me, I hear this all the time. I think there are a lot of people like Mark Zuckerberg – who is a good pal of the Obamas. He wants a lot of cheap engineers from India and Korea and beyond. But how’s that good for the American middle class? And how’s that good for Marco Rubio who wants to win all these middle class people?

With a record high of 91.8 million Americans not in the workforce as of December, there are droves of Americans who need work over foreign workers. Specifically relating to STEM fields of employment, Robert Charette wrote for IEEE Spectrum in late August 2013 that the so-called “STEM crisis” – that there are not enough, or soon will not be enough, scientists, engineers, mathematicians, or technologists for American industry – is nothing more than a “myth.” Charette systematically proved that there is no shortage of STEM workers in the United States.

Likewise, the economic impact of granting amnesty to illegal aliens in the United States and importing a massive influx of new workers – as 16 GOP congressmen led by Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) wrote to President Obama a little over a week ago – would be to displace American workers in all fields while hurting their wages. That does not even take into account the effects this issue has on the taxpayers as a whole. A new report from the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) found that in Texas alone, illegal aliens cost taxpayers $12.1 billion in 2013, while only paying about $1.27 billion in taxes. 

Rubio responded to Ingraham’s point about STEM worker visas by agreeing that any visa programs need to ensure that Americans have the first shot at any jobs in those fields, or any fields, over imported workers. Then Rubio tried to argue again that some kind of “enforcement mechanisms” for immigration legislation would not be controversial.

“Well, I would say any program like that has to be weighed against domestic opportunities,” Rubio said. "I mean, if there are people here who are prepared to do those jobs, they should get the first shot. But ultimately, we also believe in a system where the best person should get the job. Things have to be balanced. But my point is, I don’t think it should be controversial that you have in place enforcement mechanisms. It should not be controversial.”

At that point, Ingraham jumped back in to point out that the president would not actually implement any enforcement or security legislation even if the Congress passed it. “They’re not going to do it, Senator,” she said.

Rubio agreed. “Right,” he responded.

Ingraham ended the segment by asking Rubio if House Republicans should, as Speaker John Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan, and Judiciary Committee chairman Bob Goodlatte are doing through their forthcoming immigration “principles,” move forward on immigration in any way before Obama is out of the White House. 

“I get it,” Ingraham said to Rubio. 

I really do get it and that you want to do the right thing. But we have seen with Obamacare – and you have been a great leader on this, you’ve led on this, you’ve demonstrated this – the abuse of executive authority and ignoring these provisions. Republicans working with the president on an issue as big and complicated as this, to me – and you can have the last word, we have about 20 seconds – but is this something you would urge the Republicans to embrace now with this man as president of the United States?

Rubio replied that he questions whether House GOP leadership and other Republicans should work on the immigration issue before Obama is out of office. Rubio’s full answer was cut off at the end because the show cut to commercial at a hard break.

“Well that’s the fundamental question,” Rubio said. 

The bottom line is you just have a tremendous amount of mistrust that no matter what you write into law, this administration will ignore it and enforce the parts they like and ignore the parts they don’t. And that has set this whole effort back in a way that may be insurmountable. But I do think that there are small-scale things that can be done on the non-controversial parts to build momentum and create the space for, at some point down the road, being able to finish the entire…. [cut to commercial].

The Gang of Eight bill Rubio championed through the Senate last year is all but dead, since he and all of the House GOP leadership except for Paul Ryan have come out in public opposition to a conference committee between it and any House bill or group of House bills, thus closing down any procedural avenues to save the bill. However, House GOP leadership is charging hard to develop a set of immigration “principles” before the upcoming House GOP conference retreat in Maryland later this month. Those principles are likely to reflect the Gang of Eight immigration package while breaking the larger, more-than-thousand-page bill the Senate passed into a series of smaller bills that together comprise all the pieces of comprehensive immigration reform.

House leaders are expected to attempt to label this package of bills a “step-by-step” or “piecemeal” immigration reform, even though they will seek to pass the whole group of bills at the same time. Sens. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and Mike Lee (R-UT) wrote in a joint op-ed last fall for Breitbart News that real “step-by-step” or “piecemeal” immigration reform means that border security and interior enforcement bills are passed by the House, then the Senate, signed into law by the president, and then implemented – meaning the border is secured and the nation’s interior immigration laws are enforced – before any other pieces of the immigration package are even considered in the House.

Like Rubio’s decision to come out against conference committee late last year, effectively un-endorsing his own bill, Rubio’s warning here to Republicans on immigration issues – from experience, as he went through the ringer with the conservative base, seeing his polling numbers plummet – is that it would not be too bright for House GOP leadership to try to do anything on immigration in 2014.


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