This morning, Florida senatorial candidates debated on CNN’s State of the Union. When the state’s Republican candidate, Marco Rubio, was specifically asked about what he thinks should be done about the 11-12 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the country, he initially dodged the answer. When pressed, Rubio explained that he supports fixing the legal immigration system so that undocumented immigrants can go back to their home countries and reenter the country legally:
RUBIO: First, I don’t believe we can grant amnesty because I think it’s unfair to people who have entered legally.
MODERATOR: You would send them out of the country?
RUBIO: Well, it’s not that simple. I’ve never advocated that we round people up. I don’t know anyone who’s seriously talking about that. What I said needs to have happen is a legal immigration system that functions. [...]
MODERATOR: You’re still going to have the difficulty of 12 million people here, they don’t have papers. What other than amnesty — call it anything you want — just call it a plan.
RUBIO: You have to have a legal immigration system that works. [...]
MODERATOR: Your plan is that you’re going close the borders, get the electronic system, fix the legal system and then do what?
RUBIO: And then you’ll have a legal immigration system that works and you’ll have people in this country without documents that will be able to return — will be able to leave this country, return to their homeland and try to enter through a system that now functions.
Rubio often reminds his audience that he is a son of immigrants. So it’s surprising that his answer doesn’t take into account what will happen to the millions of U.S.-born children of immigrants who would have to drop their lives in the U.S. and return to their home countries for an unspecified amount of time. He also doesn’t consider the vacant jobs and homes that would be left behind. And though Rubio doesn’t support “rounding people up,” he doesn’t explain how the U.S. government would convince millions of undocumented immigrants to abandon their homes and families and return to their impoverished homeland for an undetermined number of years.
Curiously, Rubio provided a much more tepid answer when he was asked a similar question on the DREAM Act during a debate for Spanish-speaking voters which aired on Univision a few weeks ago. “I want to work on something that allows us in a limited way to accommodate those who are in this country in that predicament through no fault of their own, but have a lot to contribute to our country,” Rubio told Univision’s audience.
The Department of Homeland Security estimated that Florida is home to 720,000 undocumented immigrants as of 2009.