Sen. Marco Rubio said Tuesday that a failure by Congress to pass an immigration reform law might prompt President Obama to extend a suspension of deportation to most of the nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants.
Speaking via telephone on "The Morning Show With Preston Scott," a Tallahassee, Fla. radio show, Rubio, a Republican, said that deporting all the nation’s undocumented immigrants is unrealistic.
The only solution, he said, is to overhaul immigration laws so that they tighten border security, improve the monitoring of the entry-exit system for people who enter legally on visas, and provide a pathway to legalization for certain undocumented immigrants.
I believe that this president will be tempted, if nothing happens in Congress, he will be tempted to issue an executive order...where he basically legalizes 11 million people by the sign of a pen.
- U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida Republican
Rubio waded into the topic of immigration as legislation to overhaul the system is stalled following Senate passage in June of a comprehensive bill with billions for border security, changes to visa programs and a new focus on workplace enforcement, plus eventual access to citizenship for the immigrants already in the country illegally. Rubio played a key role in the bipartisan Senate bill.
“I believe that this president will be tempted, if nothing happens in Congress, he will be tempted to issue an executive order,” Rubio said, “like he did for the DREAM Act kids a year ago, where he basically legalizes 11 million people by the sign of a pen. Now, we won’t get an E-Verify, we won’t get any border security. But he’ll legalize them.”
Rubio made his comments after staying largely silent about immigration since the Senate passed the bill.
The radio host essentially nudged him toward the topic, noting that many listeners had submitted questions about immigration.
Rubio responded: “Alright, well, let’s talk about it.”
Rubio expressed exasperation with the inaction over illegal immigration.
“It’s not good for the country to have 11 million people who are here illegally,” he said. “We don’t know who they are, some of them have committed crimes – not the majority, not a large percentage, but enough so that we want to know.”
He said it is important to get them onto the tax rolls, to make E-Verify – a federal database through which employers can check a worker’s eligibility to hold a job in the United States – mandatory nationwide, and to bolster border security.
Rubio conceded that taking on the issue can be a thankless task for a politician. Many Tea Party groups, and other conservatives, have accused Rubio of being a turncoat for supporting a path to legalization for undocumented immigrants, which opponents denounce as amnesty.
“It’s a tough issue,” he said. “I didn’t get involved in it for politics. I don’t think it’s helped me with anybody politically on either side of the debate. I got involved in it because I felt it was the right thing to do. I felt like I had to do something to make this better.”