The PJ Tatler

Rubio Explains Why Immigration Deal Is 'Not Amnesty'

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) set the stage for this week’s anticipated rollout of the Group of Eight’s immigration reform deal with a busy Sunday on the morning shows.

On Fox News Sunday, Rubio said the plan’s expected pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants is “not amnesty.”

“Amnesty is the forgiveness of something. Amnesty is anything that says, ‘Do it illegally. It’s going to be cheaper and easier.’ Here’s what people need to understand. Under the existing law today, if you are illegally in the United States, you are not prohibited from getting a green card and ultimately getting citizenship. The only thing is you have to go back to your home country, you have to wait 10 years and then you can apply for it. And all we’re saying is we’re going to create an alternative to that,” Rubio said.

“That will still be in place, but we’re going to create an alternative that says, ‘OK, you want to stay here? You’ll have to wait more than 10 years, you’ll have to pay this fine, you’ll have to pay this registration fee, you’ll have to be gainfully employed, you won’t qualify for any federal benefits and, then after all that, you don’t get into apply for anything until the enforcement mechanisms are in place. And I would argue to you that it will be  cheaper, faster and easier for people to go back home and wait 10 years than it will be to go through this process I’ve outlined. That’s why it’s not amnesty,” he continued. “And bottom line is we don’t award anything. You have to qualify and apply for it, and that’s the key distinction. If somehow being in this country is cheaper, easier and quicker than doing it the right way, I wouldn’t support that.”

On CNN’s State of the Union, Rubio argued that the bill won’t result in a replay of the 1980s immigration reform that resulted in a new flood of illegal immigration.

“First of all, a universal e-verify system which means you won’t be able to find a job in the United States if you can’t pass that check. Secondly, an entry-exit system. You know, 40% of our illegal immigration are people that enter legally and then they overstay their visas. We don’t really know who they are because we only track when people come in, we don’t track if and when they leave. And third is real border security including fencing. All these three things are going to happen because they are triggers, they are triggers for the green card process that we’ve described or are laying out in our proposal,” Rubio said.

“If they are not fully implemented, there will be no green cards awarded. And we think that will be incentive. We are also going to have a legal immigration system that works. Part of our illegal immigration problem is that we don’t have a legal way for people to come here, for example, temporarily to work on a farm. We’re going to have that now, so people aren’t going to have to come illegally. It’s going to be cheaper and easier to come legally. So I think all these things working together – none by themselves will do the trick – but all of them working together will ensure we never have this problem again.”

On ABC’s This Week, Rubio said input of the other 92 senators should make the Group of Eight’s bill even better.

“I’ve tried to incorporate as many of their ideas as possible given the bills they’ve filed in the past. If some of them have submitted letters that have outlined concerns, and we have answers for all of those concerns. I look forward to how they can improve this bill and this product. As far as the Republican Party is concerned, I just want the Republican Party to be what it’s always been. I want the conservative movement to be what it’s always been about. And that is solving problems in a way that true to our values and the principles of the greatest nation on Earth,” the senator said.

“Even if we didn’t have a single illegal immigrant in the United States, we’d have to do immigration reform because our legal immigration system is broken… I just hope that I can convince people that leaving things the way they are now is much worse than approaching it the way we’ve outlined.”

On CBS’ Face the Nation, Rubio said he’s optimistic about the bill’s chances because it “answers all the questions that people raise.”

“This bill does three things that are fundamentally important for our country. It modernizes our legal immigration system, something we need to do no matter what,” he said. “It puts in place the toughest enforcement measures in the history of the United States, potentially in the world.”