Immigration bill clears key Senate hurdle, but will it die in the House?

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," June 24, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: This is a "Fox News Alert," the Senate clearing a key hurdle in immigration overhaul bill the Senate voting to limit debate on the border security amendment. Now, that's great news for the supporters of the Senate bill.

Just after tonight's vote, we spoke with Senator Marco Rubio, member of the "Gang of Eight."


VAN SUSTEREN: So a big vote tonight in the U.S. Senate, 67 to 27, on the border security amendment. What does that mean big picture?

SEN. MARCO RUBIO, R-FLA.: Well, I mean, it means that we've made improvements to the bill, I mean, real improvements. You're going to have 700 miles of fencing, and the money's in the bill, so can't take it out in the future, like they've done in the past. Means we're going to have 20,000 new border agents, doubling the size of the U.S. border patrol. It means you're going to have mandated technology.

So we're actually saying at a minimum, this is what the secretary of Homeland Security must do. I know some are going around saying she can ignore that, but she can't. It says these are the minimum standards. So it's a real improvement on the border security.

I just wish they would have done it a little earlier. I've been saying it for weeks now, that the border security elements of the bill needed to be strengthened.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, is the border security going to be set in place before anything else happens, like, anyone given any legal status who might be here illegally? Or is it done simultaneously?

RUBIO: Well, first of all, a couple things need to happen. Number one is there are people illegally in the country now. We're not talking about people in the future. We're going to identify those people. They're going to pay a fine. They're going to have to undergo a background check. And they're going to get a temporary work permit. And while they're in that temporary --

VAN SUSTEREN: Now -- now -- are we doing that -- I mean, before the security for the border -- many people want to -- many Americans want security first at the border and then we start that process.

RUBIO: Yes, but we need to understand the prize here. What they really want is the permanent status, the green card. That's the permanent status. That cannot happen until 700 miles of fence are completed, until E-Verify is fully in place, until the entry-exit tracking system is fully in place, until the technology plan is fully in place, until the 20,000 new border agents are hired, trained and deployed. All five -- and 10 years have to go by before anyone who has violated our immigration laws and before they can apply for the green card.

What we're going to do in the interim is we're going to say, If you're here illegally now, we want to know who you are. We're going to force you go undergo a background check and pay a fine and start paying taxes. And all you're going to get is a temporary work permit.

You're not going to be able to get "ObamaCare" or food stamps or welfare or any of these other programs. But we need to know who those people are.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, my guess is if I just took a -- made a transcript of everything you just said outlining the bill in the last, you know, minute-and-a-half, that it'd probably be at most 15 pages of transcript. So tell me why this bill has to be 1,200 pages? Because a lot of Americans -- I'm one of them -- are suspicious that all those other pages means loopholes, pork for some people, special projects, senators shoving something in for something he wants.

RUBIO: Right.

VAN SUSTEREN: Why can't we do a bill in your 15 pages? What's wrong with what you just said?

RUBIO: Well, a couple things. The amendment is only about 100-some-odd pages, the amendment, which is what was voted on today --

VAN SUSTEREN: That's 100.

RUBIO: Yes, 100 pages, the amendment. And that's since there's an existing bill. The reason why the existing bill is lengthy is because it doesn't just deal with border security and illegal immigrants, it reforms our legal immigration system away from a family-based system, away from chain migration and towards a merit-based system. So we've completely reworked future legal immigration so that it's more skills-based. We kept hearing that from people.

That's the existing bill. The amendment basically took the existing bill and added about 100-something pages, primarily of these border security requirements because people told us they didn't want to leave it to Janet Napolitano to design the plan, so we designed it for her.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is there any U.S. senator who gets anything special for constituency in this bill?

RUBIO: Well, I don't believe that that's the case. I think there are things that are good policies --

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, what about -- let me get --


VAN SUSTEREN: Let me ask a question. There's one -- there's a special provision for people who fish in Alaska, right?

RUBIO: Well, that's not accurate. What it is, is the guest workers that are fisherman, it allows them to apply for a temporary visa, a work visa to fish in Alaska because the fisheries in that state have a particular issue that they want to use a work permit. That's not a giveaway. It's not cash. You have to pay for those visas.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, why can't we -- but why can't we make this uniform for everybody? Why do we have to make it special or different or whatever you want to call it for Alaska?

RUBIO: Well --

VAN SUSTEREN: Why can't we make this uniform?

RUBIO: Again, that's an issue that's specific to certain regions of the country where they have guest fishermen. In most places, like in Florida, the fishing fleet that's out there, the commercial fishing fleet, is all domestic. But there are parts of the country that use foreign workers from time to time to do some of the fishing. And so those areas -- like in any legislative process, they're going to say that they have a special need in their part of the country.

But this is not a giveaway like cash. This is a visa that people have to apply for and pay for.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, but -- but I'll tell you what many Americans are frustrated with is the complexity of these -- complexity of these statutes, the 1,200 pages or whatever it is. And if we need to give guest work permits, you know, why do we have to sort of section out different parts of the country? Why can't the whole country -- everybody -- I mean, because there are going to special worker needs in other parts of the country.

I mean, if, indeed, that should be in the statute, you know, when you begin giving little special ones to this part of the country because they have a particular concern or this part of the country because they have the particular concern, that's what I think begins to make people suspicious that some are getting special deals.

RUBIO: Right. So -- and I understand that. I do. And I fully understand people's suspicion of government, and I'm generally not in favor of big pieces of legislation for those reasons.

But our immigration system, when it comes to temporary workers, is regional. For example, there are crops that are seasonal. And so you need workers that work seasonally. There are other crops, like the nursery industry in Florida, that's year-round. And so that's a different kind of worker that needs a different kind of permit. So depending on what kind of agriculture you have in your state, you're interested in a different type of legal process for people to come here and work.

VAN SUSTEREN: I still -- you know, maybe I'm thick, but why not just have one general guest worker, and if you happen to be seasonal, you do seasonal work. If you happen to be, you know, around the clock, around the year, you do around the clock. But you start making these different differentiations, (INAUDIBLE) make it more complex, more confusing!

RUBIO: Well --

VAN SUSTEREN: If we want guest workers, so be it. Let's have guest workers. If we don't, we don't!

RUBIO: Well, I'll tell you again why. For example, an agricultural guest worker is very different than someone that's in construction, for example. Construction work is work that Americans will do. And so you probably don't need as many guest workers for construction. And some people would dispute that, but for example, you probably have domestic labor available for construction than you do, for example, picking tomatoes in a field down in south Florida. So those are examples of crops that have different types of workforce that they use.

Here's another thing. If you want to bring in a guest worker from abroad, you have to pay to bring that person here, you want to make sure that you - - if you pay to bring them here, a week later, they aren't off working for someone else's farm because you paid to bring them here. So that's one kind of guest worker. Other people do want to bring a worker that can work for anybody, they're a free agent. But then you don't have to pay to bring them here.

VAN SUSTEREN: All right, let me ask you one last question. What about gay couples? That was not in the "Gang of Eight" nor in the bill that came out of the --


VAN SUSTEREN: -- Senate Judiciary Committee.

RUBIO: No, it is not.

VAN SUSTEREN: A lot of gay Americans are wondering what to do -- you know, what's going to happen with gay couples. What is the status of that?

RUBIO: Well, first --

VAN SUSTEREN: And I realize everyone's sort of standing by to see what the Supreme Court does this week on DOMA. But what's the plan now?

RUBIO: Well, first of all, I mean, any individual can apply for legal status in the future -- I mean, legally come here. I'm talking about as a guest worker, a green card applicant through the legal process. Any individual can do that.

The bill does not deal with same-sex couples. I respect everyone's views on this issue, but I'm telling you that if that's in the bill, it will kill this bill. This bill has significant challenges as it is. There's still a lot of opposition. There's still a lot of, quite frankly, suspicion about what it's going to do and how it's going to work.

Sadly, a lot of misinformation about provisions of the bill. If that's added into that bill, that provision that you just outlined about same-sex couples, it will doom the bill to fail.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is there no way to sort of -- for people to exert leadership, and, like, you know, we're giving -- we're giving up on sort of the issues that everyone thinks are difficult but which happen to mean a lot to many Americans. You know, is there any way to sort of, like -- if we're going to do comprehensive, let's do it and let's face these tough issues?

RUBIO: I'm sorry -- well, look, here's what I -- here's the way I view it. For years, even before I came here, when I would talk to people about immigration, they would say to me, Let's finish the fence. Let's build a border fence where it's needed.

This bill regulates that. It mandates that. And it funds it so a future Congress can't come and cut the money. People used to say to me, we need an E-Verify system that works. This bill does that. That says we need border patrol agents. This bill does that. It said we need more technology on the border and we should require specific technology, don't leave it to the Department of Homeland Security to decide. Put it in the bill. This bill does that.

This bill has a bunch of things that conservatives and many Americans have been asking for specifically for years. It now requires it. And the reason why we know it's going to happen, or we think it's going to force them to do it, is because you can't get the green card. No one who has violated -- they cannot -- if you violated our immigration laws, you can't even apply for a green card, much less get one, until all five of those things happen.

VAN SUSTEREN: Senator, we'll be watching to see what happens as this bill -- it looks like it's going to come out of the Senate and looks like it's going to pass. And we'll be seeing -- we'll what happens, gets to the House. Thank you, sir.

RUBIO: Thanks, Greta.