Florida GOP Senate candidate Marco Rubio got himself into hot water with conservatives when he argued that Arizona’s new illegal immigration law went “too far” and could possibly turn Arizona into a “police state.”
Does he still feel the same way now that state legislators have amended the law to address concerns about civil liberties? We certainly wanted to know – and more importantly, so did you. In a HUMAN EVENTS exclusive, Rubio spells out his position on the “controversial” statute and also discusses his views on amnesty.
The transcript of my interview with Rubio is below. And be sure to come back tomorrow for my colleague John Gizzi’s interview with him. It’s good stuff. John asks Rubio what America’s relationship with Cuba should be moving forward, especially when Fidel and Raul kick the bucket.
Jason Mattera: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for coming in. Appreciate your time. I just wanted to hop right into immigration since it’s important for our readers. Now that the Arizona legislature has amended the law so that police can only question a person’s legal status if there’s a lawful stop, detention, or arrest. Have your thoughts or feelings changed?
Marco Rubio: Well, I congratulate them on doing that. As I’ve learned in my time in the state legislature, often important legislation is always a work in progress. They were quick to recognize some potential pitfalls. And it didn’t surprise me that they did because, as I said in my statement, I never believed that their intent was anything other than public safety.
And although others have used this to create political hay, I was in Arizona a little under two months ago. People there had told me when I was there for a finance event, had shared with me how concerned they were about the unfortunate violence in Mexico now spreading across the border into their cities and into their state. And so this is inevitable.
And the reason that something like this happening was inevitable is because the federal government has failed to provide border security, has failed to provide a legal immigration system that works.
But right now, for the people of Arizona, this is not (from I gathered) this is not even an immigration issue. This is a public safety issue. And the fact is that Mexican drug violence has tragically crossed over the border and into an American state and American cities. So I congratulate them on taking steps to clarify even further the intent of the law.
JM: If you were in the Arizona state legislature, would you have voted for the law?
MR: The second one that passed hit the right note. Yes.
JM: The first time around, would you have?
MR: Well, I would have wanted to see changes like the ones that were made because I know that that’s not the intent of the bill. We’re always concerned. I mean no one is in favor of a bill that would force American citizens to have to interact with law enforcement in a way that wasn’t appropriate. And the first bill I thought held that door open.
Since then, the changes that have been made to the bill I think greatly improve it. Understand that what Arizona is facing is different from anything Florida has ever faced. Arizona has a physical border with Mexico. And there is kidnappings, human trafficking, drug wars coming across that border into an American city. Frankly, very few states in the country can imagine what that’s like.
JM: Are you in favor of creating a path for citizenship for the millions who are here?
MR: Well, we have a path for citizenship. It’s called coming legally into this country. The ones who are already here. You can’t do it. Look, let me say two things about it. Number one is I think that the vast majority of the people that are in this country illegally, whether they entered illegally and overstayed their visas, they’re here because they want to provide their families with opportunity. I get that. I understand that. And I know that because I know people in that status.
That being said, America cannot be the only country in the world that does not observe or enforce its immigration laws. A key part of your sovereignty is the ability to control the influx and out flow of your people is the ability to secure your border. And you’re never going to be able to do that if you have an immigration system that says ‘come to this country illegally. If you’re able to stay here long enough, you’re able to stay here forever.’ And you’re never going to have a legal immigration system that works if you grant amnesty.
And that’s why I’ve always believed that, no matter how well-intentioned it is. I understand the human stories that we’re going to…We’re gonna….There are going to be stories of very young kids that were brought to this country at a very young age who don’t even speak Spanish that are going to be sent back to Nicaragua or some other place. And it’s gonna feel weird and I understand that. The goal here is to have an immigration policy that works. And if you provide a path for people to enter this country illegally and if they stay here long enough and pay enough in taxes, well let them stay legally…why would anyone come in through the legal process?