Chris Wallace To Rubio On Immigration Plan: 'Why Isn't That Amnesty?'

CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS HOST: All right. Let's look at the other side of this. While illegals are going to have to wait probably 15 years before they can become citizens, they get temporary legal status -- I guess it's called probationary legal status -- as soon as the Department of Homeland Security announces it has this plan, that it's going to begin this plan, and that's within months. Question, why isn't that amnesty? Because, in fact, you're giving legal status to people who have broken the law. And most people here in Washington think once they have that status, whether -- even if it's called temporary, it's never going to get revoked, Senator.

SENATOR MARCO RUBIO: Well, I think that's where people are misunderstanding. They don't get anything. What they get is the opportunity to apply for it. They still have to qualify for it. Meaning, they have to pass the background checks. They have to be able to pay a registration fee. They have to pay a fine and then they have to renew it. This is not forever. This is a renewable thing. And then they don't qualify for any federal benefits. This is an important point. No federal benefits, no food stamps, no welfare, no ObamaCare. They have to prove they're gainfully employed. They have to be able to support themselves, so they'll never become a public charge.

These are all things that they have to do just to keep that status. And the only thing that happens is that they will have to stay in that status until at least 10 years elapses and the triggers are met. All that has to happen and then the only thing they get is a chance to apply for a green card via the legal immigration system. We do not award anything to anyone.

WALLACE: But, again, this is what the critics are saying, that once they have this, quote, "temporary legal status", that nobody is ever going to revoke that and say, you know, once they've met the standards, you say, they paid back taxes, they paid a fine, they've got a job, that nobody is going to revoke that. I want to put up on the screen what a critic said about the whole issue. "I would vote against anything that grants amnesty because I think it destroys your ability to enforce the existing law and I think it's unfair to the people who are standing in line and waiting to come in legally." Senator, you said that back in 2009.

RUBIO: And I still agree with it. This is not amnesty. Amnesty is the forgiveness of something. Amnesty is anything that says do it illegally, it will be cheaper and easier. Here's what people need to understand. Under the existing law today, if you are illegally in the United States, you are not prohibited from getting a green card and ultimately getting a citizenship. The only thing is, you have to go back to your home country, you have to wait 10 years and then you can apply for it.

And all we're saying is, we're going to create an alternative to that. That will still be in place, but we're going to create an alternative that says, OK, you want to stay here, you have to wait more than 10 years, you have to pay this fine, you have to pay your registration fee, you have to be gainfully employed, you won't qualify for any federal benefits. And then, after all of that, you don't get to apply for anything until the enforcement mechanisms are in place. And I would argue to you that it will be cheaper, faster and easier for people to go back home and wait 10 years than it will be to go through this process that I've outlined. And that's why it's not amnesty. And bottom line is, we don't award anything. You have to qualify. You have to apply for it. And that's the key distinction.

So, I agree, if somehow being in the country illegally is cheaper, easier and quicker than doing it the right way, I wouldn't support that. That's why I haven't supported certain efforts in the past, because I thought they did that.

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