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Rubio on Immigration: U.S. 'Like a Hotel That Checks People in But Never Checks You Out'

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said the bipartisan immigration reform bill he worked on, which passed the Senate in 2013, was not strong enough on the criminal violations that disqualified illegal immigrants from seeking permanent status.

“At the end of the day, I would say we need to be as strict as possible in regards to it because again, while I think we need to be reasonable about the fact that we have this problem that exists, we also have to understand that you do not have a right to illegally immigrate here,” Rubio said at the National Review Ideas Summit in Washington.

“One of the problems I have with the groups out there that are advocating for immigration reform, some of them, is they approach this debate with the argument that they have a right to be here. It’s not a right. 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,” he added.

Rubio said no other country in the world comes close to bringing in the 1 million people America legally accepts from around the world each year.

“It is largely on the basis of whether or not you have a relative living here, and the argument that I use is that in the 21st century it has to be based on merit and the ability to contribute economically. And there will still be people seeking asylum and refugee status and there will be room for that,” he said. “There will still be a family component to it, but ultimately we are in a global competition for talent and our legal immigration system should reflect it.”

Rubio said the U.S. has to secure the border and fix its employment verification system before it deals with the 12-13 million people living in America illegally. He also called on Congress to address the illegal immigrants who initially entered the U.S. legally.

“Over 40 percent of the people in this country illegally entered legally. They didn’t jump a fence. They came on a visa and the visa expired and they stayed and we don’t know who they are or where they are because primarily, when you come in on a visa, we log you in but we never record you leave,” he said. “We’re like a hotel that checks people in but never checks you out. It doesn’t work so that has to be dealt with as well, and that’s why I think at this moment the time has passed for a bill of that type.”

Rubio, a member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, suggested that the country’s economic needs should determine the amount of immigrants allowed to enter the U.S. each year.

“There’s no magic number. I would imagine, by and large, I approach it from the argument that we want to continue to be the place in the world – we don’t want to just be the leading investor in the world – we want to be the leading place in the world to invest,” he said. “So if you have money to invest, no matter what country you live in, I want you to invest it in America.”

Rubio made it clear that he wants the smartest people in the world in their respective fields to come to America.

“We’ve always benefited from that as well and I’ll tell you why I want that, because we do that in sports. If you are the best pitcher on the planet, you’re going to play in Major League Baseball. If you’re 7-foot-2 and can dunk a basketball, you know we’re going to bring you here,” he said. “Why would we not do that for science, technology and our economics?”

In Rubio’s view, the best physicist in the world should be given permanent status in the U.S.

“Not just living in America. I want you to be an American and I want you here and that’s important, too, because if you bring people here temporarily they can never be Americans. I don’t just want people that want to live in America. I want people that want to become Americans,” he said.

Addressing the negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program, Rubio said a bad deal almost guarantees war.

“The argument the White House uses is if you are not in favor of this deal, you are in favor of war. I would argue a bad deal almost guarantees war because Israel is not going to abide by any deal that they believe puts them and their existence in danger and neither are the Sunni Arab countries that have been very clear that whatever Iran gets, we’re going to get,” he said. “It’s a complex issue but it’s an incredibly dangerous one at a critical moment that I think can determine what the next 50 years on this earth looks like in many ways.”