This is a rush transcript from "Journal Editorial Report," June 2, 2012. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
PAUL GIGOT, HOST: This week on the "Journal Editorial Report," with the 2012 campaign season already in high gear, is there any hope of breaking the gridlock on immigration reform? We'll ask Florida Senator Marco Rubio.
Plus, the Wisconsin recall comes down to the wire. Can Governor Scott Walker survive his union-backed challenge?
And growing calls for action as Syria sinks further into chaos. Should the United States intervene?
Welcome to the "Journal Editorial Report." I'm Paul Gigot.
As campaign season heats up, hope for bipartisan compromise on pretty much anything goes out the window. But Republican Senator Marco Rubio wants to break the gridlock on one of the most divisive issues in Washington, immigration reform. The Florida freshman is working on an alternative to the Democratic-backed DREAM Act. I asked him earlier what kind of progress he is making on Capitol Hill.
SEN. MARCO RUBIO, R- FLORIDA: The first thing to recognize is we do have an illegal immigration problem and people are frustrated by it. That's why I support security and enforcement, either a fine, things of that nature. On the other hand, we do have some people in this country that are in a very unique position. The first step I'm trying to make is to deal with children basically that were brought here at a young age, through no fault of their own, find themselves undocumented.
GIGOT: This is a compromise on the so-called DREAM Act.
RUBIO: Right, which is designed to help kids who, through no fault of their own find, themselves in the circumstances they are in. All I'm trying to do is help these kids do right when their parents did wrong.
GIGOT: So if they serve in the military or go to college, they would be put on a path to citizenship?
RUBIO: The way we are envisioning it is, if you graduate from high school -- and there is a military component to it but that is not controversial. The part we'll have the most debate is, if you graduate from high school and haven't committed any felonies and have been here for a certain period of time and entered before a certain age, we will give you a non-immigrant visa that allows you to stay in the country legally so you can --
GIGOT: Is that a form of green card?
RUBIO: No, it's not a green card. It's a non-immigrant visa, which is what we give like a student visa, and it allows you to stay in the United States and complete your studies. After some period of time in the future after you have been here -- we are still debating how long that should be -- at that point, you would be he like any other nonimmigrant visa holder in the country, you would be allowed, if you want to, to apply through the green card through the existing system, not through some special path, because that is the complaint about amnesty.
GIGOT: I want to ask you about the amnesty. What would be your response to say, anybody who is illegally here, who doesn't want to return to the country of origin and wait in line like anybody else, is being given a form of amnesty if they are allowed to stay here on get on the path of citizenship.
RUBIO: I think there's a difference that we've long recognized in this country. For example, in the case of refugees, between the people who have chosen to break the law and be here illegally, and those brought here by their parents or by circumstances. These kids -- when you are 12 years old or 8 years old, you don't choose to come to the country illegally. Many of these don't even know they are undocumented until they graduate and try to go to college. No one's every told them that. So this doesn't apply to people who, as adults, came to this country, or as older teenagers, came to this country --
GIGOT: They would have to be minors when they --
RUBIO: They would have to minors when they entered. They would have to have lived here consecutively for a significant period of time, invested in our society, graduate from high schools and not have any criminal record, and then all you get is a nonimmigrant visa. Eventually, in the future, at some point, you would be allowed to apply for a green card through the normal process, not in a special way.
GIGOT: This is going a fair ways, at least in my estimation to what the White House has asked for. Yet, they are resisting your compromise. I think they've actually stated, at least a senior aide has, that they don't like what you are doing. Why?
RUBIO: I think there are politics involved no doubt, to the shock of many who may be watching this program.
GIGOT: They want to use the DREAM Act --
RUBIO: I think there are some -- I don't want to say all but there are some in the Democratic Party that legitimately want to help the kids. There are some that were counting on this issue to use on the campaign and to use against Mitt Romney and the Republican Party, and I don't think they want there to be a reasonable Republican alternative, because it takes away the argument. I think we have plenty of other issues to debate and this is one we should take off the table and try to solve. And I hope -- in the last few days, I've heard more promising tones from many of my Democratic colleagues and a willingness to work together to find a solution for the kids.
GIGOT: Let's change subjects to the foreign policy. You are on the Senate Intelligence Committee. Do we know, have you been told at all, on the committee, who leaked the news, whether it was Pakistan or an American, about the doctor -- Pakistan's Dr. Afridi, who helped us capture bin Laden?
RUBIO: No, but I think it is concerning. This is not a person who did anything against the interest of Pakistan. This is someone who was basically helping to capture a criminal, someone who had done great harm and killed Pakistanis or had been involved in the death of Pakistanis. The capture and ultimately the death of bin Laden was beneficial not just for the United States but for Pakistan and the world. I don't think he has done anything wrong and I think it is very troubling what happened to him.
GIGOT: Was it a U.S. intelligence or policy mistake not to get him out of here once we knew they would be looking at him?
RUBIO: Some of these issues will always be discussed within the intelligence community and I'm always cautious about speaking about those things because I don't want to be the source of something that undermines future operations. Suffice to say, at least for now, I'm satisfied that the U.S. is not to blame for what happened. And I think now that the world knows about it the pressure should be on Pakistan to treat this gentleman fairly. It has not committed any crimes or treason against Pakistan. He did not act against the national interest of Pakistan. He shouldn't be in jail.
GIGOT: Why would any average citizen, much less somebody who is taking the risk of life and limb in a country like Pakistan, or anywhere else in the world, help us again if that is what happens to somebody that does help us --
GIGOT: -- and we didn't get him out of that country in team.
RUBIO: I think that's right. I think that is the concern about future operations, is that this could serve as an example to others, that cooperating with the United States could lead to a very bad outcome for them or their family. And we depend on these sorts of relationships all over the world to not just gather intelligence but to conduct operations. So there's concern about the implications this could have.
GIGOT: But you are not willing to criticize the administration for not getting them out.
RUBIO: Not yet. I think -- we'll we certain will see how it plays out and I think they have taken a forceful position in terms of their position, vis-a-vis, Pakistan, but there are other issues at play that we couldn't publicly discuss that make the issue a little more complicated than is publicly known. Let me just say that I'm not prepared to make the criticisms. The important thing now is not to play politics of this issue but get that gentleman out of the predicament that he is in because he has done nothing wrong, vis-a-vis, the government of the sovereignty of Pakistan.
GIGOT: Let's talk briefly about Syria. They have -- as you know they had the massacre in Houla on the weekend. Do you agree with John McCain, your Senate colleague, that the U.S. should consider a use of force on a no- fly zone in Syria?
RUBIO: I agree that we should take a more forceful position that we have already. I'm not prepared to engage the United States in a military operation there. The fundamental problem in Syria is that the opposition, whether the military or political opposition, is not cohesive or unified. So best thing the United States can do, working with our allies, is to create the conditions so the opposition to become more cohesive and unified and that means encouraging the Turks and our allies in our region to create a safe zone in their territory so that the Free Syrian Army, so that the political leaders there's that are opposing the Assad regime can begin to organize themselves. And I think we can provide resources such as communications, food, humanitarian support. I think our allies are prepared to arm them.
GIGOT: But not military aide.