Sen. Marco Rubio pushed back against President Obama for describing Republicans as “nativists” after they opposed his actions on illegal immigration.
“I think the use of ‘nativist’ to describe opposition to his form of immigration reform is inaccurate and unwise,” Rubio said during an interview with National Public Radio.
Rubio reminded the host that Americans who are skeptical of immigration reform should be considered “legitimate,” and he defended their views. “I think there are very legitimate reasons to believe that this country has a right to have immigration laws and have those laws respected,” he said. “A million people a year come to the U.S. illegally, and there aren’t any voices saying that that should be stopped.”
When pressed by the host, Rubio admitted that there was a “very small part” of the American people who oppose any kind of immigration reform on principle. “The vast majority of people I’ve spoken to just want to see our laws enforced, and that’s the point that’s not talked about enough.” He explained, “No one has a right to illegally immigrate to this country.”
The Senator went on to state, “What we’re being asked to do here is to ignore the fact that we have immigration laws because of the human aspects of the story.”
Rubio said that many Republicans were open to changes in immigration laws but first wanted to see illegal immigration stemmed in the county and the border secured. Broken promises of tougher enforcement in the past, explained Rubio, was part of the reason few Republicans trusted the government to reform the system. “The amnesty happened, but the enforcement never came,” Rubio said, referring to past immigration reform efforts.
Some Republicans were also worried that any changes to the immigration laws would cause a surge of illegal immigrants across the border regardless of limitations, Rubio asserted, citing the influx of unaccompanied minors from last summer. “Young people in Central America were misinformed by trafficking gangs, that somehow the U.S. had created new laws that allowed them to come and stay,” he said.
Rubio admitted that part of the reason why the “Gang of Eight” immigration reform bill that he helped shepherd through the Senate failed to move forward was it did not include enough immigration enforcement guarantees.