Republican presidential candidate Senator Marco Rubio says that no one who has ever run for president knows more about fixing immigration in the United States than he does.
In a New Hampshire town hall meeting, the Florida Senator argued that he was not a supporter of amnesty – even though his immigration bill proposed by the Senate “Gang of Eight” offered illegal immigrants a path to citizenship.
“No one who has ever run for president understands this issue personally better than I do and that’s why I can tell you and you should tell your friends that no one running for president is better prepared to fix it than me,” he said in response to a voter who asked Rubio how voters would ever trust him on immigration because of his “soft” reputation on the issue.
Rubio grew increasingly passionate as he discussed the issue which has nagged him on the campaign trail as he has tried to emphasize his conservative credentials. During his speech he reminded the audience that he and his wife’s family were all immigrants and grew up in an immigrant community which made him more qualified to address the issue.
“I understand this issue personally, I understand the good, the bad, and the ugly, and every aspect of it,” he said.
Rubio argued that the issue of immigration had changed considerably since he first joined Senate Democrats to craft a proposal for illegal immigration reform. He connected immigration policy to national security, pointing out that future immigrants would have to have to be scrutinized more as a result of threats from Islamic State terrorists.
“I don’t support amnesty,” he added. “There has to be real consequences for violating our immigration laws, so if you are a criminal you going to be immediately deported … if you violated our immigration laws there will be a substantial consequences for having done so.”
Rubio’s claims will likely anger critics of his Senate bill. It would have conditionally granted citizenship for illegal immigrants, particularly after a combative fight with his Sen. Ted Cruz over the issue.
But Rubio criticized his Republican colleagues running for president for refusing to come up with a solution to deal with the millions of illegal immigrants currently in the country – arguing that they were making the problem worse.
“It’s very easy to stand up and talk tough on immigration, it’s very easy for someone in Congress to say, ‘I’m against illegal immigration’ but offer no ideas,” he said, “And that’s why for thirty years nothing has happened on this issue … it’s gotten worse because they talk about it but they don’t do anything about it.”
Rubio appealed to the audience’s emotions on the issue, informing them that he knew stories of illegal immigrants that would “break your heart” and stories about people in the country legally that would “outrage” voters.
He added that he understood the frustrations voters had with wealthy foreign birth tourists seeking American citizenship for their children and people crossing the border just to deliver their babies in the United States.
“I know all these stories. Not because I read them in a magazine. I see it and it’s outrageous,” he said.