Marco Rubio believes an agreement in Congress to protect approximately 780,000 undocumented immigrants in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program can and should happen.
But Florida’s junior U.S. Senator also warns that such a deal shouldn’t be the product of a “gang” of senators as it was with the group he was a part of for comprehensive immigration reform the Senate passed in 2013.
Appearing Monday on Fox and Friends, Rubio said any legislation would have to include funding to build a wall for border security and a need to find “some permanent status” for those currently in DACA.
“That is the deal. What has complicated it is people come forward and say ‘Well, I want citizenship,’ which Republicans and even the president has expressed an openness to but only if you deal with chain migration,” Rubio said.
Chain migration is a term used first by demographers in the mid-1960s to describe the process of allowing legal immigrants to petition for their parents, adult brothers and sisters and adult sons and daughters to come to the U.S.
Republican Senators Tom Cotton from Arkansas and David Perdue from Georgia have introduced legislation that would reform chain migration and create a point system to evaluate potential immigrants based on factors such as age, education, professional skills and English proficiency.
Rubio said that if Democrats want to talk about a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, then a debate about chain migration has to be on the table. But he said that Democrats have to understand that such a deal won’t happen until they agree to authorize funding to construct a wall on the U.S.-Mexican border.
“The president has expressed a willingness to do it, but it’s important for Democrats to understand: nothing is going to happen unless we can figure out a way to permanently fund the wall and the enforcement that the president wants, and that the vast majority of Americans and myself included, support,” Rubio said.
Rubio added that progress can happen quickly on the issue, “but it cannot be a product of a gang of four or five people meeting somewhere, putting a bill on the floor, and saying ‘take it or leave it.'”
“I was part of an effort like that in 2013, I see others are trying to do it now. It won’t work. This issue is too critical to too many people to be a product of a small group and a ‘take it or leave it’ proposition.”
Rubio was a crucial part of the “Gang of 8” that passed a comprehensive immigration bill in 2013. The bill was attacked by conservative media, and then-Speaker John Boehner refused to put the bill up for a vote in the House.
Tea Party groups protested Rubio’s support for the bill as well, and he began backing away from it almost immediately after its passage in the Senate. While running for president two years ago, he said at a campaign stop that the bill “was not headed toward becoming law,” telling a questioner in Rock Hill, South Carolina, that “ideally it was headed toward the House, where conservative members of the House were going to make it even better.”
Rubio’s appearance on Fox took place just a few hours before the Senate was scheduled to vote on legislation that would reopen the government by extending funding until Feb. 8. It would also extend the low-income children’s health insurance program, CHIP, for six years and suspend some taxes under the Affordable Care Act. It does not include any legislative fix addressing those in the DACA program.