Sen. Marco Rubio says a main lesson he took away from his work on comprehensive immigration reform in 2013 is that Americans lack trust in the federal government to enforce the immigration laws in the country.
“I learned a very powerful lesson in 2013: the American people do not trust the federal government to enforce our immigration laws,” Mr. Rubio said Thursday, speaking at an event hosted by the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce.
Mr. Rubio, Florida Republican and 2016 GOP presidential candidate, said even if a law is passed that provided for things like a border wall and an E-Verify system, “they’re going to turn to you and say it doesn’t matter what law you pass[ed]. They won’t do it. They’ll ignore it — they ignore it now.”
“And that was a shocking realization, that that’s the level of mistrust,” he said. “And then since then, there have been subsequent things that have happened that even further eroded that trust.”
Since his work on the “Gang of Eight” Senate bill that, among other things, provided an eventual path to citizenship for most illegal immigrants in the country, Mr. Rubio has advocated for a piecemeal approach on the issue with an emphasis on border security first.
Mr. Rubio reiterated that the American people need to see that illegal immigration is under control and called for modernizing the legal immigration system. If those two things are done, he said, Americans will be reasonable about dealing with illegal immigrants who have been in the country for a number of years, who are not otherwise criminals, who learn English, who start paying taxes, and who are willing to pay a fine.
Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, one of Mr. Rubio’s 2016 rivals, has tried to stake out a hard-line approach to illegal immigration, saying during the GOP debate earlier this week that if the Republicans join the Democrats as “the party of amnesty,” they’ll lose.
Mr. Cruz told reporters in New Hampshire Wednesday that he likes and respects Mr. Rubio, though they’ve had some policy disagreements.
“It is not complicated that on the seminal fight over amnesty in Congress, the Gang of Eight bill that was the brainchild of Chuck Schumer and Barack Obama, that would have granted amnesty to 12 million people here illegally, that I stood with the American people and led the fight to defeat it in the United States Congress,” Mr. Cruz said, according to MSNBC.