Human Events: What is your response to conservative critics, such as Ann Coulter, who called the statement of principles from the Gang of Eight the same as amnesty?
Marco Rubio: I recognize and understand that people have bad memories and bad feelings about past efforts to reform immigration, but what I’ve done is I’ve just identified a problem and an issue that was going to emerge with or without the president, who clearly telegraphed his intention to raise this issue. And I just feel that conservatives are better having our own solutions than waiting for the president to come up with one and simply responding…
I think it’s unfortunately true that a significant percentage of current Hispanic voters favor the Democratic Party and voted for the president; but, I don’t believe that’s necessarily a permanent thing. The bottom line is that if we can’t convince people of all backgrounds, including Americans of Hispanic descent, that limited government and free enterprise is a better way, not just for them, but for the country, not only is the conservative movement doomed, but ultimately I think America is doomed, in terms of us continuing being an exceptional nation. So, I have tremendous confidence in our ability, in our, I mean, the movement’s ability, to communicate our principles and convince people to change their minds on these things.
I just think it’s going to be harder to do that and it almost becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy is an entire generation of Americans of Hispanic descent end up convinced and believing the Left’s line that conservatives don’t like people like them. That’s not true, but that’s what they’re being told and we can’t do anything that makes that argument easier for Democrats.
1. While immigration reform alone won’t make most Hispanics switch from D to R, it is the gateway policy needed before conservatives can begin to make their case to that community. And even though future Republican presidential candidates could conceivably win doing as poorly among Hispanics as Mitt Romney did — at least for another election, maybe two — such a weak showing leaves little margin for error and makes a large, Reaganesque GOP win improbable.
2. Immigration reform would nudge conservatives and Republicans to move beyond an economic agenda — both in terms of policy and messaging — that’s been focused almost exclusively on a) debt reduction, and b) directly meeting the needs of business and entrepreneurs. Keep all that stuff, of course, but what about education and health care reform and the tax code’s anti-parent bias? A populist, middle-class agenda won’t just help win the votes of Hispanics, but also the votes of millions of middle-income and working-class Americans of whatever race and ethnicity who think the GOP and conservative policies have nothing to offer them.
3. Even if it will be initially hard to move the Hispanic vote rightward, immigration reform sends a signal to other groups — Asians, women, younger voters — that the GOP is an open, inclusive, and compassionate party.
Paraphrasing Winston Churchill, supporting immigration reform won’t be the beginning of the end of Republicans’ problems with Hispanic voters, but it might be the end of the beginning.
An American community that shares many of the values and policy views of conservatives ought to be open to appeals from Republican candidates. That a huge majority of Latinos won’t consider voting for Republicans is attributable, to a great extent, to their impression that the party and self-identified conservatives on talk radio and cable TV believe America would be a better place without them…
The GOP won’t be rewarded for it with greater Hispanic support in the next election or probably the election after that. All they will have achieved is an overdue and sensible solution to a national problem and the opportunity to start talking to Latino voters about something other than whether they want their relatives to self-deport.
Eventually the party will likely find support among more than a quarter of these voters for its principles of low taxes and limited government and for conservative social values. It might take a while. But it had better happen before a Republican presidential nominee loses the state of Texas to go along with the Democrats’ control of California and New York — before, in other words, Republicans become a permanent minority for having alienated too many other minorities.
Ted Cruz, the new senator from Texas, urged conservative activists to recognize cultural realities among Hispanics in America, to wit: “There are 2.3 million Hispanic small-business owners in the country. . . . We are an incredibly entrepreneurial community.” Hispanics in America want what everyone wants, to rise. They will be open to arguments on which party’s policies are more likely to clear the path. Republicans spent 2012 answering President Obama with the slogan “You built that!” But that was a slogan aimed at those who’d already arrived, who were established. The GOP message, he said, should have been, “You can build that.” The party should not allow itself to look like the party of big business, it has to be the party of the young person in the garage inventing something that will challenge big business…
In fact, solving immigration is important politically to the GOP because it would remove an impediment to reconciliation. But immigration reform itself probably won’t result in any electoral windfall for the Republicans. Mexican-Americans strike me as like the Irish who came to America in the great wave from 1880 to 1920. They saw the Republicans as snobs and establishment types, saw the Democrats as scrappy and for the little guy, and cleaved to the latter party for a good long while. That may be what’s coming here, but no one knows—everything’s more speeded up now, political affiliations are less placid and implacable than they once were. But Mr. Cruz’s insight on how to make an effective appeal was a needed corrective.
[W]hat are the reasons to think such legislation would produce different results from those of the 1986 law?…
Nearly 60 percent of illegal immigrants come from Mexico, with which we share a 2,000-mile border. But net migration from Mexico appears to have been zero since the housing bubble burst in 2007.
We don’t know whether it will resume again. But we do know (as we didn’t in the decade after our free-trade agreement) that Mexico’s economy can grow faster than ours, as it is now.
Mexico is becoming a majority-middle-class country, which reduces incentives to emigrate. I predict ee’ll never again see Mexican immigration of the magnitude we saw between 1982 and 2007.
As agents explained to me, the border crossers knew nothing of what lay ahead. Once their feet hit the American side, they would have to do the following: run through the blackness over terrain they’ve never seen before, navigating bushes and small gullies without so much as a flashlight, running in panic a distance of at least a mile — longer if they get lost. If they make it to the highway (Interstate 5, in this case), they have to find a car or van they have never seen before (only heard described) driven by someone they’ve never met before. They then climb in, sitting with people they don’t know heading to a place they’ve never seen. If they arrive safely, they live in a house with many others, hoping upon hope that they find work.
On the two nights I rode with Border Patrol agents, some crossers made it — becoming instant and daring criminals.
Others were captured. Some immediately burst into tears. Others practically hyperventilated with fear and anxiety. Still others walked grimly with the agents, certain they would soon try again…
Fundamental to all of these issues is the question of criminality. What is the nature of this crime? Who was wronged? What was taken? What is just?…
Immigration is about more than politics. It’s about humanity, our humanity. It’s about justice, our justice. It’s about our country and everything it represents to ourselves and the world.