Marco Rubio talks immigration reform with Mark Levin

Continuing a tour of conservative talk shows that began with Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) appeared on Mark Levin’s radio show Tuesday night:

Rubio re-emphasized the importance of bringing border security up to snuff as part of his immigration reform plan, predicting that if the flow of new illegal immigrants is not controlled, “we will be right back here again in three, to four, to five years… and I don’t ever want to have to deal with this issue again.”

Rubio is quite aware that President Obama doesn’t agree about the importance of the law enforcement “triggers” in the Gang of Eight immigration reform proposal.  He singled out Obama’s resistance to a “modernized guest worker program,” which would, among other things, reduce the number of guest workers when U.S. unemployment is high.  He also resisted Obama’s calls for rushed action on immigration reform, saying “I’m more interested in doing this right than I am about doing this fast.  This is a monumental issue that impacts the future of millions of people in our country, in our economy.  Really, there’s no need for unnecessary delays, but this needs to be done the right way.”

On the positive side, he praised President Obama for making it clear that aliens granted provisional permits under Rubio’s proposals would not qualify for federal benefits, including ObamaCare, which would become completely “untenable” under the weight of millions of new dependents.

Levin noted that many Americans don’t trust President Obama to hold his end of an immigration deal, given his penchant for abusing executive power to short-circuit laws he disapproves of.   Rubio suggested that it would be up to the American people to hold him accountable for mangling any immigration reforms he signs.  That’s not a very comforting answer – one of the reasons many are skeptical of Rubio’s immigration proposals is the suspicion that all of his reasonable safeguards, restrictions, and security enhancements will be swept away later, and the Democrats will be protected from political consequences by the same forces that put immigration reform on the national front burner to begin with.  Also, although Levin didn’t get into this, it could be noted that the government’s track record of enforcing the old immigration laws doesn’t fill skeptics with confidence that they’ll be able to manage a new, potentially even more complex system.

Rubio characterized the illegal alien population as generally interested in doing the right thing to secure proper citizenship, rather than demanding instant amnesty.  He said that “by and large, the response has been positive” from that community toward his proposals.  There is much talk of the short-term political risks Rubio is taking by becoming the high-profile Republican champion of immigration reform; in the long term, he’s gambling a lot on his positive impression of the illegal population as enthusiastic law-abiding citizens-in-waiting.

He also emphasized the importance of dealing fairly with legal immigrants who are “doing it the right way,” as Levin noted that Washington currently seems more solicitous toward illegal immigrants than toward legal American citizens groaning beneath the burden of taxes, regulations, and mandates.

Rubio described himself as a child of immigrants who grew up to become a policymaker who “sees something that’s hurting the greatest country in human history, and I want to solve it so we can remain that.  And this is a bigger issue now than just immigration.  I hope people fully understand what’s at stake here, not just with immigration, but with all of these issues.  If we don’t start doing some things right now, we are going to become known as the generation that’s responsible for the decline of America.  And there is no replacement for America in the world.  There’s no other country that’s going to be what we once were.  There isn’t some other stand-in for us.  If America declines, the whole world is going to be worse off.

Levin concluded the interview by hailing Rubio’s reform proposals as “more conservative than the 1986 Simpson-Mazzoli bill that my hero, my former boss, Ronald Reagan signed.”  But he remained skeptical that Rubio’s proposals would be any more likely to survive passage through the legislative chop shop of Washington, where everything except the amnesty spark plugs tends to get stripped out of such deals, or left to rust.