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ICYMI: Rubio Joins DeFede on Facing South Florida
Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) joined Jim DeFede on Facing South Florida to discuss former President Trump and the events of January 6th, immigration reform, and the Covid-19 pandemic. See below for highlights and watch Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 of the interview.
On impeachment and the events of January 6:
“I said from the outset that I thought [former President Trump] bore some responsibility, but the primary responsibility in my mind continues to belong to the people that did it… People will all learn more, certainly the public will learn more about the events of that day, but there was a wide assortment of individuals involved in it. Let’s begin with this: there were three or four hundred thousand people that came up to Washington for that day, and of that a small fraction, I would say probably less than 1-2%, actually entered the Capitol and did that.
“There were people associated with that that have been involved in these things even before Donald Trump was elected President. Some of these militia groups, anti-government groups, groups I warned about last June and July when they were showing up at the unrest that was going on in different streets around the country. In some cases, because there are anti-government militias and activists, there are other people that sadly have been ensnared in conspiracy theories online and thought they were sort of acting out this great day that was going to be the “storm” as they call it and so forth. So there’s an assortment of individuals there.
“Now clearly when you’re aware that people like that are gathering, I think you have to understand that things can get out of hand. Certainly law enforcement was aware of it. But ultimately the individuals who did this are the ones who are responsible for it, and they’re being held accountable for it, they’re being arrested, they’re being investigated. And I said it almost as it was happening, that what was going on was unpatriotic, un-American, should not be happening, and criminal. But by the same token, we need to recognize that there were tens of hundreds of thousands of people here, the overwhelming majority of whom left that rally and went back to the airport or got in their cars and went home or went to their hotel. Some of them weren’t even aware that it was going on until later on, and that’s important. I don’t think it’s fair to paint everyone with the same brush here.”
On President Trump’s role in inciting the events of January 6:
“Look, this is a hot political moment, people are passionate, but I think that’s true across the board. And I think that we are in very dangerous territory if we start saying that every time someone is out there and starts using heated political rhetoric, you are now responsible for what every individual in that crowd goes off and does as a result of it. I think that’s true for both sides. Because you can stand up and give a speech on an issue and then someone goes out there and takes a shot at someone, motivated from the speech because they believe that the other side is evil and the other side needs to be destroyed.
“So I think we have to be very careful about saying that sort of thing, and I think it ends up sort of excusing the people that were involved in this, overlooking the reality behind why some of them were there and why some of them did what they did. I don’t think the President’s blame is 0%, but I wouldn’t put a percentage on it and I wouldn’t go as far as Mitch McConnell and what he said.
“[President Trump is responsible] simply to the extent that you know that there are people in this crowd that are in town that do things because you’re the President and you have access to that sort of information. And should you govern yourself in that way, hopefully not say anything that could be taken the wrong way. On the other hand, I think the overwhelming majority of people would hear the speech he gave, [they] would say it’s not much different than the speeches he’s given on multiple other occasions the last five years and there wasn’t a riot that emerged after the fact. I think the only difference between that day and other days is that on that particular day there was information that there were some really bad people in town intent on doing far more than just protesting and perhaps weigh your actions as a result of it.”
On former President Trump and the current political climate:
“If you look over the last four years, [former President Trump] has spoken on almost a daily basis and there weren’t daily riots… I continue to believe that a President’s words have impact and I’ve already said to you I think he bears some level of responsibility for what happened that day and the things leading up to that day. But by the same token I’m not going to ignore that there are elements involved in our society that go beyond simply Donald Trump… The truth of the matter is that we have fundamental things going on in our society that made Donald Trump possible, that made the things I was talking about on that date possible. Donald Trump did not create these factors, he is a product of a lot of the things that were already in our country and these deep divisions that frankly both sides have.
“…There is nastiness all across the political spectrum and there are members of Congress on the Democratic side that have told people to get in the member of Congress’s face, to confront them in public. Chuck Schumer said if the Supreme Court didn’t rule the way he wanted them to, they would pay the consequences for it… So I think it’s true across the board and frankly…you look at cable news. Cable news is entirely driven by conflict. Every morning you turn on the cable news network, they’re not reporting news. They’re trying to get people angry at each other and to hate each other because it drives up the ratings. So all of this we need to examine as a society and as a country. I think it’s unfair to pin all of that on one person.
“…At the end of the day, Donald Trump walked out of the White House and went into private life. In a third world banana republic that transition doesn’t happen. There was an election in this country. He didn’t like the outcome, he complained about the outcome, he raised some claims that were not proven to be true. And he raised others that I think some people will look at and think, ‘Okay, that’s not fraud but we do have problems with voting laws in certain places that undermine public confidence and create the opportunity for these sort of things to be said.’ That’s why Florida and other states are trying to tighten that thing up. It doesn’t mean the outcome is illegitimate… That’s why these laws are in place, so people can’t raise these things in the future.
“Donald Trump and I do not have the same style and same way of acting. But… I also believe that despite the things he does that I haven’t agreed with — and I have said so, and in fact sometimes voted against some of the things he wanted that we didn’t agree on — I also believe that he’s been often treated unfairly. Right now, we have children, we have reopening migrant centers — including one here in South Florida, the exact same thing that Donald Trump did — and I will bet you right now that the media coverage of it will not even be 1/10th of what it was when Donald Trump did that. The exact same thing just two and a half years ago… At the end of the day there is an imbalance here and a hypocrisy here that the American people see, and it actually strengthens the arguments that [former President Trump] makes.”
On a potential visit to former President Trump at Mar-a-Lago:
“Well it wouldn’t be a pilgrimage for me, I mean it’s in Florida. So it would be a visit to someone who lives in our state, as I do people all the time. So I don’t consider it a pilgrimage, I actually don’t believe I’ve ever been to Mar-a-Lago at any point. But there may very well come a day when I may visit there, but for me it’s not a pilgrimage. Other people have to come from other states. For me it’s just a short ride up I-95.”
On the recent surge in migration at the Southern border, including migrant children:
“The bottom line is this: we have seen a surge in minors coming to the border over the last month. And the reason why there’s a surge is because the message has gotten out that there is this new presidency, there’s the new administration. And if you show up at the border with children, they’re going to process you, they’re going to admit you into the country, and they’re going to say you need to show up for an asylum hearing that most don’t even show up for. And that gets out.
“Now, trust me when I tell you, I feel tremendous compassion for these people. I understand what they are fleeing, I do. I also understand that the people that are bringing them here, are horrible, evil human beings. These traffickers, they take advantage of them, they rape the women, some of these people don’t even make the journey, they charge them thousands of dollars. And by the way, these people lie. They go back and they say, ‘There’s a new law in America, you can now get in, just bring a child’. And we know this. And so when you allow a group to show up at the border and allow them in because they have children, you are basically creating an incentive to bring children on that dangerous journey.
“Now what do you do with them when you’re at the border? How do we know that that’s really their parents and not some child that was brought along? You have to confirm all of these things. We don’t have a way to hold family units together. We can’t rent some big hotel and put everybody in the same rooms. And you can’t have a place where you have kids running around and adults running around. Terrible things could happen. So you have to protect those children by putting them in a place. That’s what the Trump administration tried to do, and they were roundly criticized for it. That’s the reality that the Biden administration is now facing.
“And my point is when Trump did it, it was a humanitarian crisis, it was a human rights violation. But now that Biden’s doing it, it’ll get very little attention. It certainly won’t get the wall-to-wall coverage and the people camped out there every day…That’s just true, it is absolutely true.”
On the Trump Administration’s treatment of migrant children:
“First of all, that’s a function of parents — or people claiming to be their parents — coming into the country, and then you can’t find them. Because when an immigration authority’s calling to partner you up with your children, those people aren’t answering the phone. In some cases, it’s the fact that a minor arrives at the border, and they’re going to have to stay with an aunt, an uncle, and those people have to be vetted. You have to vet who these people are, you can’t just put them in the home of someone and suddenly [something] terrible happens and you’re held responsible for it.
“Here’s the bottom line…this should not be incentivized. No country in the world — not even the richest, most powerful country in the world — can create a system in which thousands of people can show up at your border with children and you have some orderly process by which they’re allowed admission into the country without any prior approval. You just can’t do it. And no other country tries, and we shouldn’t either. It’s inhumane.”
On immigration reform:
“So, here’s the bottom line. Number one is our number one focus right now should be getting through this pandemic and rebuilding our economy. That should be our number one priority. I don’t think immigration reform at this moment is as important as it was in 2013 or at times in the past.
“Number two — and I’ve said this now over and over again since that experience in 2013 — the only way that you have a chance to move forward on immigration reform is, first and foremost, you have to prove to the American people that illegal immigration, unlawful immigration, is under control. You cannot say that right now when we have a surge of illegal immigration on our borders, including children arriving.
“Number three, the number one priority of our immigration system is we have to have laws and they have to be enforced. And they are among the most generous laws on the planet. A million people a year are admitted into the United States legally. Every single year. We’re proud of that. But that’s the process. And If you’re not going to enforce that process, you’re not going to have a process. Mexico has immigration laws, Canada has immigration laws, every country in the world has them. We need them as well. At some point we have to modernize our legal immigration system. It is my view that a 21st century immigration system needs to be based more on what you’re going to do when you come here for work than it simply is on how many family members you have living here.
“And then at some point after you’ve done those two things, you will have to deal with the fact that you’ve got 10, 11, 12, I don’t know what the number is now, millions of people now in the country that have been here a long time who are not dangerous criminals, and frankly, at this point, they’re not going to go back, and may even own businesses, and you’re going to have to find a way to incorporate them into American life. But if you don’t do the other two things first, that 12 million will turn into 25 or 30 million and we’ll never get this problem solved.”
On the role of immigrants in the American workforce:
“If they’re working in fields, then that calls for fixing our agriculture program, which I’ve put forward ideas on how to do it, because a lot of those people would like to come here seasonally, work, go back home, come back again. The reason why they don’t leave is because they’re going to have trouble getting back in next year. If you have seasonal labor needs or defined shortages in certain fields, then you modernize the system to make it possible for people to come here legally, go back legally, and come back again legally next year.”
On finding a solution for the DREAMers:
“In fact, President Trump made a very generous offer three years ago. He made a very generous offer, and it was turned down because [Democrats] didn’t just want the DREAMers, they also wanted their parents, and they also wanted them to then use their new status to be able to bring relatives to come in from abroad. [The Democrats] are the ones that are not willing to compromise on this — not the immigrants, most immigrants simply want to be legalized, or want a process to be legalized –- but the activist elements and the Democratic Party, they want it all. They want the whole thing, and that’s where the problem becomes. If they were willing to do it in pieces you could get a lot done.”
On the Trump administration’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic:
“Well, I think…everyone that struggled with it, it’s only every open society. We’re not China, we can’t lock people in homes, entire blocks, or lie about the true numbers. We’ll never know how many people really died in China, or Russia, or Iran, or anywhere else. So that’s one of the challenges.
“I think the second challenge that we face in this country — and in some ways it’s sort of a sign of our advancement — is we do have a lot of people that survive into their 80s and 90s, but we know these folks are more vulnerable to this disease if they get it. Our life expectancy in that way is higher than some other countries we’re being compared to, and that’s been a challenge.
“Now, I think everyone would say ‘Okay if we could go back to March of last year, are there things we could have done differently?’ Certainly. I think there were things that everyone could have done differently, states could have done differently. I bet you in New York, Cuomo is looking at what he could have done differently instead of sending a bunch of people to die in nursing homes because he didn’t want them in the hospital.
“But I also think we have to look at some of the achievements. In this country we have not one, but two vaccines developed in a record amount of time, that by the middle part of this summer will allow this country to get back to some level of normalcy and not face a total economic societal collapse. I think in the midst of this we also have to congratulate our first responders, our doctors, our nurses who developed, in real time, therapeutic and treatment advances that have dramatically improved the chances of survival and improved the outcomes when people were hospitalized. And even now we’re seeing a dramatic decline in the number of nursing home infections, which is going to result in less hospitalizations and less deaths… And by the way, did all of that while we still don’t know the origins of this virus, when it started, who patient zero was. If all of that information had been shared earlier we could have had the vaccine even earlier than we did.”