He was once a primary architect of a piece of Senate comprehensive immigration legislation that included a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Now, presidential candidate Marco Rubio says the “time has passed.”
Sen. Rubio’s (R-FL) newest proposal calls for a “non-immigrant, non-permanent work visa” for the undocumented population, provisional only after border security and legal immigration measures are undertaken.
In a conversation with the conservative-leaning National Review’s Jim Geraghty, Rubio said that undocumented immigrants who have been in the country for a “decade or longer,” and passed various hurdles like undergoing a criminal background check, paying a fine, paying taxes, and learning English, would then be eligible for the “non-immigrant, non-permanent work visa” under a Rubio presidency.
“You would have to be in that status for a significant amount of time and at some point, if you choose, you could apply for permanent residency,” Rubio explained. “But you’d have to do it through that modernized legal immigration system and you’d have to do it just like everyone else. In the interim you’d have that work status.”
That “modernized legal immigration system” would include measures that take into account “economic realities” that improve the employment verification system and allow temporary guest workers, like agricultural workers, to return back to their countries after working here half the year.
On the issue of undocumented immigrants, Rubio admitted, “There is not even the most vociferous opponent of the Senate bill filing an amendment to round up and deport 12 million people. No one in this room is asking for that. It’s not a position people are asking us to do. We do have to address that.”
Rubio noted that he would “be as strict as possible in regards to” undocumented immigrants with felonies, misdemeanors, and potentially DUIs, adding, “we also have to understand that you don’t have a right to illegally immigrate here.” Rubio also grew frustrated stating that immigrant advocates “approach this debate with the argument that they have the right to be here.”
“It’s not a right,” Rubio said. “What you are appealing to is the best interest of the country, you are appealing to our morality as people, but you can’t appeal to a right. There is no right to illegally immigrate anywhere in the world. You don’t have a right… you clearly forfeited that when you violate one of our laws outside of the immigration realm.”
Rubio previously stated that “the immigration issue is a gateway issue for Hispanics, no doubt about it,” told mothers of DREAMers that he was “with you guys,” said that “generations of unfulfilled dreams will finally come to pass” when he voted for his own comprehensive immigration reform bill, and even called so-called DREAMers, or undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children, are “real people.” But Rubio has since shifted his rhetoric. Last year, he berated five immigrant activists for “harming their own cause because you don’t have a right to illegally immigrate into the United States” and has since supported piecemeal legislation with an emphasis on border security.