Yesterday, I interviewed Sen. Marco Rubio while guest-hosting The Hugh Hewitt show to get some answers on the failure of the Grassley amendment on the immigration bill, and to ask what the Gang of Eight would do to address concerns from border and immigration enforcement personnel about immigration reform. Rubio told our listeners that the Grassley amendment would have delayed the collection of fines for years — and more importantly, that a new border-security amendment would come next week to specify the substance and metrics required to proceed:
Here is the full transcript, courtesy of The Hugh Hewitt Show:
EM: Joining me right now, Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida. Welcome to the show, sir.
MR: Thanks for having me on.
EM: Always a pleasure to talk with you. Now we are obviously watching what’s going on with the immigration bill, and the debate in the Senate with a great deal of interest and some concern, Senator Rubio, because Senator Grassley had proposed an amendment which seemed to toughen up the border security triggers at least, if not the visa program triggers. And that amendment seemed to have disappeared, or it was obviously voted down. I don’t mean to say it was disappeared.
EM: It was voted down.
EM: And that has a lot of people kind of concerned now about whether or not we’re going to have substantial triggers on border security that are verifiable and not bypassable.
MR: Well, first of all, we are, because it won’t pass without it, number one. And I just didn’t think the Grassley approach was the right approach, and although I know he’s trying to do the right thing, and I’ll explain to you why. Two things, three things, really, first is we didn’t want to wait to background check and identify the people that are here illegally. I want to do that as soon as possible. And the reason why I want to do that as soon as possible is because I don’t want the problem to get worse. I’m worried about if we wait another four years, or three years, and leave the de facto amnesty in place for two to three years, and that people know that at some point in the future, you might be doing something, it’s going to encourage people to come in. And the result is in three or four years, when we finally start the process, we may find out that instead of 11 million or 10 million, it’s 13 million or 14 million. So I want these people that are living in this country now illegally, I want to know who they are as soon as possible. I want them to undergo background checks, I want them to pay a fine, I want them to start paying taxes and working. And in exchange for all of that, they don’t get anything permanent. They don’t get a green card. They don’t get a path to citizenship. The only thing they get is a work permit, a temporary work permit that expires in six years, and they’ve got to come back and renew it. And that’s all they can have for ten years, and until E-verify and border security and the entry/exit tracking system is in place. Here’s my last point. The other thing is when these people come forward, as part of that registration, they’re going to have to pay a fine. And that money from those fines is what I think is what we’re going to use to pay for the border security. Those are billions of dollars. I don’t want that money coming from the American taxpayer, and I don’t want that money coming from the Treasury or adding to the debt. It needs to be paid for, and that’s why we need that fine money up front as well. The Grassley amendment delayed all that, and that was…the other problem with it is I don’t want to leave the border plan up to the Department of Homeland Security and Janet Napolitano. That’s a mistake that’s in the current bill. I think what we need to do is detail at a minimum standard, at a minimum, of what the border plan should be in detail. It must have this, it must have that. And the amendment didn’t do that, either. So we do need more border security. We need to improve the border security part of the bill. I didn’t think that was the best approach. There will be an alternative soon.
EM: When do you think we’re going to see an alternative that we can actually run down, because here’s the problem. The way that the bill is drafted at the moment, and I understand you’re talking about adding an amendment, but the way the bill is drafted at the moment, it does leave border security to the discretion of Janet Napolitano, or whoever the DHS secretary.
MR: Right, yeah.
EM: I mean, I…
MR: No, we have to change that.
EM: Yeah, I don’t want to pick on specific people here, because what we’re seeing over the last month or so in the IRS and possibly in the NSA, although we don’t know all the parameters of what happened there, but the ‘trust us’ factor is declined to probably historically low standards, Senator Rubio.
EM: And so we need to see really concrete metrics as to what constitutes border security.
MR: Right, and that’s what we’re working, that’s what’s got to be in there, and that’s what we’re working on accomplishing. And I don’t think without it, it’ll have the 60 votes to pass the Senate, much less the House. And I’ve said that repeatedly now for weeks, so that’s exactly…so I think you’ll see something, God willing, early next week, so people can start to look at it. And a bunch of senators have been working on it. There are a lot of Republicans that want to be supportive of something, but need to be able to go back home and tell people that they have taken serious steps to ensure this never happens again. Like I said, it’s going to have to happen. It’s going to have to be in there, or this is not going to pass.
EM: Senator Rubio, we’ve been seeing some pushback from some of the rank and file in border patrol and immigration services saying that this, that the bill doesn’t allow them to enforce border security as it’s currently constituted. Have you heard some of this criticism?
EM: And what is your response to this, because these are the people who really probably know this best. They’re on the ground right now dealing with a lack of will to enforce what we do have on the books.
MR: Well, we’ve heard two separate criticisms. One is from the border patrol agents, the people on the front lines on the border. And not only have I met with them, but other senators have met with them. We’ve gotten a lot of input from them. And that’s some of the stuff that’s going to be in this specific plan. I mean, in essence, we don’t want to hear from the administrator, we don’t want to hear from Janet Napolitano. We want to hear from the people that are on the front lines trying to secure the border. And we’re taking all those ideas they’re giving us, and we’re working it into that specific plan that should be available, God willing, next week. The second issue is the internal enforcement. That’s ICE. Those are the ICE agents. And we have met with them on two occasions, and obviously our staffs have been talking to them. There’s a House bill that has some stuff that they want, so we’re trying to incorporate that stuff in this specific plan as well. So we do take very seriously the concerns that they have raised, quite frankly, not just with the bill. Their concern is that the bill doesn’t fix what’s broken in the status quo. I think they made valid points, and we’re taking all of those into consideration and working to incorporate them in whatever it is that comes forward next week.
EM: So we, just to make the point here in the interim while we’re continuing on, this is a work in progress, and we haven’t seen the final version of anything quite yet, because you’re still doing amendments, you’re still doing debate. Now with that said, Senator Chuck Schumer, one of the partners in the gang of eight, made statements that, and you’re going to have to help me out with this, that somehow the fines and the back taxes were not necessarily going to be imposed. Can you explain what’s going on with that, because again, you’re mentioning here that you’re counting on that money to help secure the border so it doesn’t cost American taxpayers anything.
MR: Right. First of all, what’s paying for the border security are the fines.
EM: The fines, yes.
MR: They’re going to have to pay a fine. That’s the consequence, one of the consequences of having broken our immigration laws. There’s not going to be any question about collecting those. Those are going to be collected. What we’re talking about are taxes on the money that the illegal immigrants have made during the years they’ve been in the country illegally. And so those are in our principles. I mean, that’s agreed to that that has to happen. The only question now is how do you make that happen, because practically speaking, you know, how do you prove that this is how much money they made in the past, and this is how much they owe, and that’s what we’re struggling with, is finding a way to implement that in a way that’s going to be done. Now right now, the way the bill has it is it requires them to pay back taxes, but it leaves it to the IRS to figure it out. Well, as you can imagine, our trust in the IRS is at an all-time low…
MR: So we’re trying to figure out a way to make sure that that happens in a way that’s implementable, because going backwards and trying to get, calculate what people made over five years when they’ve been here illegally is not an easy thing to do, but it’s part of our principles, and it needs to be in the bill.
EM: Senator Rubio, you also made a comment about Democratic efforts to add recognition of gay marriage in terms of bringing in people in across the border. We only have like maybe 30 seconds left. Tell us about your objection to that, and why it’s such a fundamental objection for you.
MR: First of all, like I said, I respect people’s views on this issue. There’s a whole debate going on about that in this country. But if that gets on this bill, the bill is going to fail, and I can’t support it. I’ve already said that. I’m not trying to draw lines in the sand or issue ultimatums. I’m saying the same thing I said when it came up during the committee process. This is a delicate and difficult enough issue as it is, and I think most people in the Senate understand that.
EM: Senator Rubio, just very quickly, when can we expect to see the border security part of this bill being brought to the Senate?
MR: Well, I hope it’ll be next week. As I said, a bunch of other Republican senators outside the gang or the group of eight have taken leadership on it. I think that’s positive. I think that’s good. And so we’re pushing and hoping that that’s available as soon as possible.
EM: Senator Marco Rubio, thank you for joining us.
We had heard a couple of weeks ago that the Gang of Eight had more or less agreed to replace the original border-security provisions, which had left the substance and metrics to DHS. After watching what had happened with Obama administration efforts to get around existing immigration law, but more likely what had happened at the IRS, a consensus formed that Congress should dictate the solutions rather than allow DHS to determine them independently. However, they want to preserve the timing of the original approach, which is why the Grassley amendment didn’t work.
I’m a little surprised that they took this long to finalize the amendment. They need to get a true border-security package added quickly, because political momentum may shift quickly in the GOP on this without it, as Duane Patterson and I discussed at the end of the show (not included here). They’re not out of time yet, but they had better move fast. Timing counts in more than one way here.