Fighting for Florida
Senator Marco Rubio
May 1, 2012
Governor Mike Huckabee: “I want to talk, though, about an area where you have had a level of expertise and you’ve also sincerely tried to craft some real solutions. And that’s in regard to the immigration issue. The DREAM Act, which was really never off the ground too much in Congress, is one version but you have your own approach that I’d like for you to talk about.
“What is it that you think we can do and should do to make the process of legal immigration easier for people trying to come to this country?”
Senator Rubio: “Well, let me start by just defining the problem we are trying to address. And it was brought home to me very recently when a young lady came by our office, she came to this country I think when she was three years old, she was very young, I don’t want to get the age wrong but it might be four, but very, very young, by her mother. They actually came legally.
“And her mom had to be returned to Colombia, I think it was for medical treatment, and upon leaving the country, of course the visa expires, and now this girl is out of status. She’s grown up here since that young age and she’s going to be graduating this month as the valedictorian of her high school.
“She’s been accepted to Dartmouth. She wants to study molecular biology and she has a deportation order. So, it doesn’t feel right to deport valedictorians who have grown up basically their whole lives and now find themselves here through no faults of their own. The question is about how we can help kids that are in that circumstance, but not do so in a way that would encourage illegal immigration in the future or create a process that people would think is unfair.
“And that’s what we’ve strived to do. And what we’ve come up with is the concept of using and applying the existing immigration laws to their circumstance. Basically what it would be is they would, if they meet a certain criteria, you have to be here by a certain age, they have to graduate high school, they can’t have a felony record, all sorts of things like that, they would receive a non-immigrant visa, which is basically what a student would get to go to school.
“And they would be able, with that non-immigrant visa, to stay legally in the United States, to study, go to college, work, have a driver’s license, and pay their taxes. But that visa doesn’t turn into residency and then citizenship. At some point in the future, if they decide they would like to stay here permanently, and my guess is that most of them will decide that’s what they want to do, they would be able to do so but they will have to do it just like anybody else would have to do it.
“In that sense, at some point in the future they would have no more or no less rights than any other non-immigrant visa holder in the United States. And if they decide to stay here permanently, they’d have to access the immigration process as opposed to the non-immigrant process. And anyone who has been there before them would be ahead of them in line.
“The one benefit is as long as they keep renewing their non-immigrant visa they would get to stay in the U.S. legally while they waited. The wait might be considerable depending on which way or which route it is they decide to go.
“That’s different from the DREAM Act. The DREAM Act actually creates a special category for them that allows them to apply for residency fairly quickly and then citizenship fairly quickly and then that leads to concerns that they would use that to bring in all their family members and then things of that nature. So we are trying to get around those concerns.
“I’m optimistic that we are going to be able to craft something that deals with this issue in a way that honors our heritage as a nation of immigrants but also our heritage as a nation of laws.”
Huckabee: “This issue generates so much more heat than light, most of the time, and it gets super charged with emotion, with people saying, ‘What part of illegal do you not understand?’ And I want to say, ‘What part of a child do you not understand, who made no decision about showing up here?’ And the situation that you described is one that I’m very familiar with. I know of two cases in Arkansas, very similar, almost identical, and the question is when people say, ‘Well, you know, this child is illegal.’ The point is: the child didn’t make the decision. And why do you punish a kid for something his or her parents did?”
Rubio: “Right, I mean there is nothing in here for the parents and that is the one thing we’ve said. The DREAM Act doesn’t either by the way, but, this bill doesn’t apply to the parents; it only applies to the kids. And again, you can’t game the system. You have to be able to prove that you came here at a very young age. You have to be able to prove all sorts of things.
“But I would equate it to the plight of refugees, you know, and again, you know the Cuban community where I come from is an example of that. The Cubans didn’t have a right to be in the United States, didn’t have a legal right to do so. But this country, out of compassion, accepted Cubans here because communism had taken over Cuba and we felt bad for the people of Cuba. It’s the same with these kids. I mean, in essence, I would apply that same sense of them being victims of something that’s happened wrong in their life, and ultimately all we’re trying to do is give them a chance to do right what their parents did wrong.”