Rubio: 'We need legal immigration'

This is a RUSH transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," January 16, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

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O'REILLY: Continuing now with Senator Marco Rubio from Florida who's put forth his immigration vision. So what's the headline of that?

RUBIO: Well the headline of it is we need legal immigration. It's good for our country but we also have a right to have immigration laws and as a sovereign country to enforce those laws.

We have a problem. Number one our legal immigration system is antiquated. It needs to be modernized for farm workers. For you know -- we can't just have 6.5 percent of the people that immigrate here be unskilled on talent -- we need to up that number. That doesn't mean under my family-based immigration but we have to have more skill based immigration.

The second thing we have to do is real enforcement and that includes improving the infrastructure at the border and getting operational control of the border. That includes work place enforcement, whether that's e- verify or something else that works. And that means by the way tracking people when they come in the country and when they leave as visitors because 40 percent of our illegal immigration are visa overstayers.

O'REILLY: Yes they just -- well all of that with the technology we have should be doable.

RUBIO: Right.

O'REILLY: But the real -- the real elephant in the room --

RUBIO: Sure.

O'REILLY: All right? Are the 12 million illegal aliens are already here. What do you do?

RUBIO: That's right -- well and look and I don't -- and I don't like that either. I wish we didn't have eight million or 12 million people here that are undocumented but we do and we have to deal with it. But we have to deal with it in a way that's compassionate but also responsible.


O'REILLY: But specifically --


RUBIO: Well here is how I would deal with it.


RUBIO: First of all if you committed a serious crime you're going to be deported.

O'REILLY: You're done, right.

RUBIO: And no one would disagree with that.

O'REILLY: Right.

RUBIO: If you haven't you have to come forward you have to be fingerprinted and background checked for national security and crimes. You have to pay back taxes, you have to pay fines. You have to have been here for a significant period of time, know English and be assimilated. And if you do all of those things what you get is a work permit basically a legal status, not a green card to allow you to be in this country legally and to work.


O'REILLY: You get a driver's license, insurance.


RUBIO: Yes you will be legally here. Basically a non-permanent visa.

O'REILLY: Ok will you be on Social Security?

RUBIO: No you will not and under that status no one qualifies for any -- any federal benefits.

O'REILLY: All right so all you get is the right to work. The right to have a driver's license, the right to stay here.

RUBIO: Right that's the first part of it.


RUBIO: And you have to be in that category for a significant period of time. When a significant period of time has elapsed, you haven't violated any of those conditions and in fact the border has been secured and the work place enforcement mechanism is in place all of that happens that would trigger a second phase.

And that second phase is this. All you would get at that point is the opportunity to apply for the existing legal immigration system.

O'REILLY: But you could still be here to do it?

RUBIO: While you're waiting. But you would have -- no but you have to get in line behind everyone that applied before you. You have to qualify for the visa when your term gets up. All you get is access to the existing system.

O'REILLY: What I'm seeing here is maybe a seven to 10 year period where an illegal alien current here does get an opportunity to make a living. Can stay and then can apply for citizenship but the process is going to take --

RUBIO: Well actually you don't apply. They apply for a green card. And then after you get your green card you have to wait another five years --


O'REILLY: Right.

RUBIO: -- to apply for citizenship --


O'REILLY: Citizenship.

RUBIO: -- which you have to pass the exam and do all the other stuff.

O'REILLY: All right that seems to be pretty fair. How does that differ with what the President wants?

RUBIO: Well I don't know what the President wants. I mean he talks about pathway to citizenship. My problem with that is this and the way you structure it. You can't do that in a way that's unfair to the people that are doing it the right way. In essence, I can't go to someone who is trying to come here legally, is waiting in line, has paid --


O'REILLY: No these people are ahead of you.

RUBIO: And say you should have come illegally it would have been easier.

O'REILLY: I'm very surprised though, you're taking the lead in the Republican stance of putting this forth and you haven't discussed it with the President? Hasn't he calls you?

RUBIO: No they've never talked with us about it and the truth is look, I -- the way our republic is designed the Congress is supposed to pass laws and the President can decide whether to sign it or not.

O'REILLY: But you're a leader. Shouldn't the President be conferring with leaders in the House and the Senate?

RUBIO: Well we're more than happy to talk to him and explain my principle.

O'REILLY: But he hasn't called?

RUBIO: No, no but -- but here is the bottom line. We're going to work with our colleagues to get something responsible done that's fair but also responsible. We don't want to -- we don't want to incentivize people to come here illegally in the future.

O'REILLY: Look you may know, he's not been very tough on this issue and border security but it's getting better. The stats show it's getting better. I think they have a handle on it now. And I like your program. I think it's fair.

So I want you and President Obama to get on the phone and get this thing so it doesn't turn into a bloody mess.

RUBIO: Maybe we could come on the show together.

O'REILLY: Absolutely. And you got -- I'll give you the whole hour. You guys can come on and we'll sort it out.


O'REILLY: But you know what? I don't know if President Obama wants to solve these problems. I think he wants to destroy the Republican Party, particularly in the eyes of Hispanic American voters. So he's going to make it as hard as possible to get anything done and demonize you guys. I hope I'm wrong but that's what I'm seeing here with the fiscal business and now with the guns and now with this.

RUBIO: Now -- well, I hope you're wrong, too. Because ultimately I mean we have a chance to solve an important issue and do it the right way but I don't think that's their attitude.

O'REILLY: Do you think that I'm wrong?

RUBIO: Well, I don't know.

O'REILLY: Oh, come on.

RUBIO: Here's what I can tell you -- I can tell you that I believe that there are people in the Democratic Party or I should say on the left that would prefer to have immigration as an issue than as a solution.

O'REILLY: Does he want them --

RUBIO: Well, we have to find out. And I hope that the answer is no.

O'REILLY: Would you put in a call to him and see if you can talk to him.

RUBIO: Oh I'm sure we'll be talking to him soon one way or the other.

O'REILLY: Would you let me know.

RUBIO: You don't think he watches this show.

O'REILLY: Well he doesn't watch it he is busy. But he gets a transcript of it.


O'REILLY: But here's what I would like to do. I'd like your office and you to try to set up some meeting with him and with some Republican senator leaders and go over and talk about and then let me know what happens.

RUBIO: Yes all right we'll do that.

O'REILLY: Because that's the only way -- transparency is the only way that's going to get this done. It's the only way that's going to get the fiscal thing done, the gun thing done, and the immigration thing. Transparency.


O'REILLY: If the President of the United States is not going to cooperate with the opposing party we need to report that.


O'REILLY: That's going to be very, very, very important going forward. Because we all want fairness and I think your program is a good one. Senator, good to see you.

RUBIO: Good to see you.

O'REILLY: We really appreciate you taking the time.

RUBIO: No thanks for having me on.

O'REILLY: All right

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