Florida Senator and Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio argued the immigration system “cannot be fixed in one massive comprehensive piece of legislation” at Monday’s Voters First Presidential Forum in New Hampshire.
Rubio said that the immigration system, “it cannot be fixed in one massive comprehensive piece of legislation. There is only one way forward, and it will require three steps, and they have to happen in the following sequence. First, we have to prove to the American people that illegal immigration is under control. It’s not good enough to just say, ‘We’re going to pass a law that will bring it under control.’ People demand to see it. They want to see the fence. They want to see more border agents. They want to see more drones and cameras and ground sensors. But they also recognize that over 40% of the people in this country illegally entered legally, and overstayed a visa. And that’s why we need an electronic verification system that employers must comply with, or they will be heavily fined. And that’s why we need an entry/exit biometric system at our seaports and airports. So that we know when people are overstaying visas and we can identify them. That is the key that unlocks the ability to make progress on anything else when it comes to immigration.”
Rubio continued, “Once we have done that…we need to modernize our legal immigration system. We are the most generous country in the world on immigration. We admit 1 million people a year legally to the the United States. But we do so primarily on the basis of whether or not they have a relative living here. We cannot afford to do it that way anymore. In the 21st century, legal immigration must be based on merit, on what you can contribute economically. Basically, whether you are coming to be an American, as opposed to simply live in America.”
Rubio concluded, “Once we’ve done those two things, I believe there is a reasonable way to address the fact that you have 12 million people living in this country, or more, who are illegally here, but have been here for a long time. And they will have to pass a background check, they will have to pay a fine, they will have to start paying taxes, they will have to learn English. And then in exchange for that, what they will get is a work permit, that allows them to legally work in the United States, and travel. And that’s all they will have for an extended period of time. And then at some point in the future, we could have a further conversation about whether they’re allowed to apply for a green card.”
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