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Rubio on Senate Floor: “No One in the Senate Can Lecture Me on Immigration”

Feb 9, 2024 | Press Releases

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) delivered a speech on the Senate floor addressing the national security threat at the U.S. border. 

  • “Most Americans have nothing against Ukraine. Most Americans want to help Ukraine. But I don’t think it’s unreasonable for them to say: ‘What about us? What about our country? What about our invasion? What about our border?’ 
  • “I want to say this with as much respect as I can, but there’s nobody in the Senate that can lecture me on immigration…. I’ve lived it my whole life. This is not immigration. 3.3 million people released into the country, 5,000 to 10,000 people a day illegally arriving in the country, that’s not immigration. Immigration is a good thing. Mass migration is a bad thing.” – Senator Rubio

Click here for video and read a transcript below:

The Senate will be in session this weekend…to deal with this bill that is about funding for Ukraine and its war effort, funding for Israel, funding for Taiwan, and some other matters. I’ll dispense with the Israel and Taiwan funding, because that has very strong support here. I’m also for helping Ukraine against Russia. I do believe we have a national interest in helping Ukraine against Russia. 

If you look at China, which most people would agree is the United States’ biggest adversary at this point for global influence, the Chinese are hoping one of two things is going to happen. The first is, they’re hoping we’re going to get stuck in Ukraine, along with what’s happening in the Middle East, and we’re going to be drained by it, and we won’t be able to focus on the Indo-Pacific. But if we do become disengaged, then what? Their hope is that they’ll go around telling people: “You see? We told you America is unreliable and a power in decline.” I believe our goal when it comes to Ukraine is to be helpful to Ukraine in a way that doesn’t drain us, in a way that doesn’t harm our alliances around the world…. 

Where I think Ukraine eventually winds up is, I don’t believe the Russians can ever achieve their initial objectives, no matter what happens, which is to take all of Ukraine, all the way to Kyiv. I also think it’s going to be very difficult for a country the size of Ukraine, no matter how much help it gets, to completely destroy the Russian Federation, who, no matter how bad they’ve been militarily, just have a size advantage. I believe that at some point, both of these countries are going to try to figure out a way out. The question is, which one of the two is going to have the most leverage and the best deal possible? And will Ukraine be able to emerge from this as a democracy, as a nation that is not under the thumb of Vladimir Putin? 

I think we have a national interest in the outcome. It’s not an unlimited national interest. It doesn’t mean we spend however much they need for however long it takes. But there is an interest. I just wanted to say that at the outset. I say that because I’m informed by my work on the Intelligence Committee, the Foreign Relations Committee, and my interest in foreign policy, but also because I think foreign policy and national security is a key part of the federal government. There are things there I don’t think I need to convince anyone about, such as Israel and Taiwan, that involve the national security of the United States and what the world’s going to look like in five, ten, or 15 years. 

That said, I know that if you walked into many places in this country right now, and you explained to them what was happening, they would be puzzled. And what people would say, no matter how they may feel about Ukraine—I think for most Americans, frankly, it’s not a priority, not because they like Putin and Russia, but because we have a lot of problems that people are dealing with in their everyday life—I think what most people would say is, “If we’re going to help Ukraine deal with their invasion, shouldn’t we first, or at least at the same time, deal with our invasion? You guys are going to meet all weekend. You’re going to fight. You’re going to call each other names. You’re going to drag this thing out…. But it’s always for somebody else or something that’s not as important to us as something that has to do with America.

In essence, “How can you be helping Ukraine with their invasion, but not be helping America with its invasion?” And it is an invasion. These are very conservative numbers, but they’re incredibly accurate…. From January 20th, 2021 till now, 3.3 million people have entered the United States illegally and been released into the country. Of those 3.3 million people that have entered the country illegally, 99.7% of them are still here. They have not been deported or removed. Of the 3.3 million that have been released into this country, over 617,000 of them either have criminal convictions or pending criminal charges. So we have at least 600,000 convicted criminals.

Let’s be clear. There have never been zero illegal people getting into America. But how did this happen? Let’s start with our law, because when people talk about immigration around here, they pretend like immigration is completely unregulated. They say, “We need new laws to fix it, because the laws are all messed up, and we don’t regulate the law.” Immigration is a complex area of law, but at its core, quite simple. Here’s what immigration law in America is. It says: “These are the people that are allowed to be in the United States of America, and if someone who is not allowed to be in the United States of America enters illegally, you are to detain them through removal,” meaning you are to detain them until their case is resolved or they are removed from the country. 

That is the law of the United States, and that’s been the law of the United States for quite some time. Now, we’ve always had exceptions. They’re narrow exceptions. For example, if the Dalai Lama shows up at the border of the United States and says, “I’m here because the Chinese are trying to kill me,” you can grant him an exception. These are supposed to be narrow exceptions, and they’re supposed to apply to individuals, case by case. But for the first time in American history, the president of the United States has decided to make the exception into the rule. It became the rule that if you arrived here, we would not detain you. I just gave you the numbers of the people who were released. The exceptions ate up the rule, and that’s how this happens. 

It’s not hard to understand, I assure you. I live in an immigrant community. When it comes to immigration, I’ve been in the game for ten years. My entire family are immigrants. My wife’s entire family are immigrants. All of my neighbors are immigrants. I live in Miami, Florida, surrounded by a community of immigrants from all over the hemisphere and all over the world. When I talk to you about these things, I didn’t read about it in a magazine, I didn’t see some documentary, I didn’t have some briefing, I talked to people. They’ve shown me. They say: “This is the Cash App payment that I sent to some guy to bring my sister and her husband. Here’s the Venmo that I sent to some guy to help my family get from Cuba to Nicaragua to the United States.

They don’t know what the immigration law is. Here’s what they know. They know people that have come here, turned themselves in, said, “I’m here blah blah blah,” and were released. They know people who did it, and those people tell other people, and the traffickers advertise it. Human beings are incentive-based creatures. That’s why we pass laws to punish crime. That’s why we raise taxes on cigarettes. When people know that if you can make it inside of the United States and turn yourself in, your chances of being released are 85%, 90%, more people are going to come. The numbers don’t lie.

There’s a graph that shows this. It looks like one of those echocardiograms, except this one goes straight up. In December of 2019, January of 2020, February of 2021, it just spikes right up. Why did it spike? It spiked because we told people, “If you’re a single adult, and you come into America illegally, and you turn yourself in, we will maybe not even interview you, and we will release you into the country.” The way you solve it is to reverse that. The law didn’t change. The immigration law today looks the same as it did in 2019. No immigration law has changed in America. What changed was this policy by executive order. Remember, we pass laws, but they have to be executed. 

Look what’s happening with crime. It is illegal in every jurisdiction in America to shoplift. But the places where you see a spike in shoplifting are the places where the prosecutors have decided, “We’re not going to prosecute those cases.” And when you tell people, “Yes, it’s illegal to do something, but we’re not going to prosecute it, we’re not going to go after it,” you’re going to get it. How do you solve this? You solve it by reversing what created it. That’s how you solve it. 

A lot of us have said, “If we’re going to do all this for Ukraine and all these other countries, can we also—so that we look at least half sane to the people in this country—deal with the border?” They said, “Okay, we’re going to do something on the border.” And they spent eight weeks negotiating a deal. And then they produced it. I didn’t have anything to do with that deal. I’m not condemning the people that did it. I’ve done immigration negotiations in the past. It’s difficult. This is even more difficult because it’s in the midst of a mass migration crisis. But they negotiated a deal. I didn’t even know what was in it until Sunday. I read it twice. I actually went through it with the knowledge base that I have, and I realized pretty quickly, this is not going to reverse the crisis. You can call it whatever you want. You can call it border security. You can label it anything you want. But this is not going to solve our problem. 

Immediately, you say a bunch of lies. The first is: “These Republicans, they wanted a  border deal. We gave them a border deal, and now they want to tank the whole thing. They’ve changed their minds. We gave them the exact deal that they asked for, and they changed their mind.” You didn’t give me the exact deal I asked for. I asked for steps that would actually solve the migration crisis. This bill doesn’t do that. In fact, I never even asked for a bill. I’m not against some of the language that’s in there. You want to change the standard on asylum? Long overdue. But that alone is not going to stop the migration crisis. I didn’t negotiate this. I didn’t even know what was in it until Sunday. I want to see a solution that we could actually take back to people and say: “We did something real on the border. Yes, we’re going to help Ukraine with their invasion, but also, something real is going to happen with our invasion.” That was not this bill, despite whatever people may say about it.

“We rejected the toughest border deal imaginable,” is another thing that people said. It’s as if they sprinkled holy water upon a vampire. Look, I could spell out a bunch of problems in this bill. I’m not going to spend the time going through every detail. This emergency thing they brag about, the emergency power to shut down the border, they don’t tell you it’s limited to 270 days, and the president can suspend it at any time. All the president has to say is: “It’s not in our national interest. We need to suspend the emergency.” Even in the emergency, you still have to process 1,400 illegal immigrants a day. 

But let me focus on what I believe to be the most blatant trap that was put in place in this bill. It’s one that people don’t necessarily spot right away, if you don’t understand immigration law and how it’s been applied over the last decade. Remember, one of the things that people used to talk about regarding immigration is asylum: “It takes too long. It takes eight to ten years. There are huge backlogs in the courts.” It’s true, and it’s one of the incentives bringing people here. People know if you release me pending a hearing ten years from now, you won’t even know where I am. 

They come back and say, “We’re prepared to solve that.” How do they solve it? Well, they create what I call the asylum corps. In essence, they’re going to go out, and they’re going to hire thousands of Department of Homeland Security agents—bureaucrats, employees, not judges—to process these claims, potentially right at the border. Right at the border, these agents will be able to interact with an illegal immigrant, interview them, ask them some questions, and they will have the power to do three things. The first is, they could say, “No, you don’t qualify.” They could do that. That’s not what’s happening now. From what I know, most of the people that sign up for these jobs do not sign up to kick people out. They sign up to help people get in. But that’s the first power. 

The other two things are the ones likeliest to be used. The first is: “We think you might have a claim. We’re going to release you pending a hearing before a judge, and you get an immediate work permit.” Right now, you have to wait six months for a work permit, even if you’re released like these people. An immediate work permit? Talk about a migration magnet. When people figure out, “If I get there, I have an X percent chance of being given an immediate work permit,” that’s a migration magnet. But here’s the third thing they can do. They can give you asylum right there and then. Not a judge, but a member of this new asylum corps, can literally give you asylum right there and then. 

The law says they can do it under the convention against torture, which is an international treaty. But let me tell you how that’s been applied. How it’s been applied is that the convention against torture isn’t just used against, “We’re going to send you back somewhere where they’re going to waterboard you.” How the convention against torture has been applied is, most of the activist groups argue that we cannot remove people from this country if we’re going to send them back to a place where they might be kidnapped or where they might be assaulted, not by just the government, but by non-government criminal gangs. Basically, if you come from a country where gangs kidnap people, kill people, extort people, threaten people, and assault people, we cannot send you back there, under the convention of torture. That’s their interpretation of it. My friends, that’s like 100 countries on Earth. That’s almost every country represented in the number of people that arrive at the border. 

What you will have is an asylum corps with the power to grant people asylum right at the border, and let me tell you the difference between the asylum corps and an immigration judge. If an immigration judge makes that decision, the attorney general can still step in and reverse it. These are irreversible decisions. And let me tell you what asylum means. Asylum is basically a green card. You are now five years away from being a U.S. citizen. That number is not going to be zero. If that law and that provision had been in place today, some of these 3.3 million people would have already been a year or two into their five-year wait to become citizens and voters of the United States of America. That’s in that bill. And that’s what it means when you read past the language and the shadows.

A year or two from now, the news reports are going to come out that the Asylum Corps has granted asylum and a five-year path to citizenship to 500,000 people. Everybody here will say, “Well, I didn’t know that was in the law.” That’s in the law. That’s in that bill that’s there. I could go on about other things. The point is, this is a trap. That was the goal…. 

The other lie is, “Without a law, we can’t do anything about the border.” I already explained to you how we got here in the first place. We stopped detaining everybody. A few years ago, when we detained children, it was because before we turned them over to some guy who claimed to be their uncle, we had to make sure he wasn’t Jeffrey Dahmer. We had to make sure he wasn’t some pedophile. We wanted to make sure it was really their uncle. In the meantime, you had to put him somewhere. But that was “inhumane.” Now it’s spread. Now the detention of anybody is “inhumane.” You’ve got people out there saying we shouldn’t even put ankle bracelets on people that are released. That’s “inhumane.” 

The incentive that drove the immigration was, we stopped detaining single adults. The word got out really fast. The traffickers, this is a business for them. They move drugs, they move contraband, and they move people. They know this, and they advertise it. I wish I would have brought some of the pamphlets that they hand out, or pictures of some of the things they put up on social media in these countries, advertising the service. 

You don’t need a law to fix that, because the law hasn’t changed. What you need is to reverse the executive orders, and the president can do that. I heard yesterday that the president is now considering executive actions on the border. At least they’ve acknowledged that they have that power. A reporter told me yesterday, “You guys are always against executive actions.” Well, the executive action I think they need to take is to reverse executive actions that he’s taken, which created this crisis. There’s other things that he can do. He can reinstate Remain in Mexico. He can reinstate the safe third-country protocol. 

The safe third country one is an interesting one. I was involved when that was put in place. Initially, because it’s counterintuitive, a lot of people said, “Why would these countries agree to that?” Let me tell you why Honduras would agree to it, why El Salvador agreed to it. Those are transit countries. The safe third country protocol basically said, once you step foot in that country, you are automatically disqualified from getting asylum in the United States. I have nothing against these countries, but I promise you that the migrants that were going through El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala weren’t going [there] to stay there. They went there because it was on the way to where they were trying to go. The minute migrants realized, “If I go there, I automatically cannot get into the United States,” they stopped going to Honduras. They stopped going to El Salvador. The countries figured it out. I bet you we could get many more countries to sign up to something like that, because they are bearing the brunt of being in the middle of the migration corridor. We could return to that as well. 

And yes, we could build barriers. I remember after the horrible events of January 6th here in the Capitol, the first thing that went up around this entire building was a fence with barbed wire. The first thing they did to protect the Capitol and themselves was put up a deputized National Guard from all over America and put up a bunch of fences around the Capitol, some of the biggest fences you’ve ever seen. But somehow, when our country is being invaded, and you put up a fence and you send the National Guard, this administration will go to the Supreme Court and try to stop you. They’ll do it to protect themselves, but they won’t do it to protect America. 

My friends, the truth is, Biden doesn’t want to stop the border crisis. And the reason why is politics. I know his memory is probably not the best, but I remember that he spent three years repeatedly saying: “There is no crisis at the border. This is not a crisis. It’s being exaggerated by a bunch of xenophobes and racists.” But now it’s a top issue in the country to voters. It wasn’t a crisis until it became a crisis in New York and Chicago and all these major cities around the country. When it was happening to Texas, when this was happening on the border of Arizona, it was as if somehow all the people that came here, all 3.3 million people, were all going to stay in Eagle Pass.

But once it got into their cities, once it started impacting them, now it became their problem, too. Once you had to start closing schools because you needed to make it a migrant shelter, now it was a crisis. When you’ve got a gang of pickpockets running through New York, assaulting police officers, now it’s a crisis. Now, when the residents of your own city are screaming at you, “Why are you spending all this money when we have our own homeless problem,” now you have a crisis. 

Voters were saying it, too. I’m certain that the people involved in the Biden re-election effort came to him and said: “Sir, we need to have a plan. We need to have a plan, and the plan needs to be something that at least looks like we’re trying to stop it, but doesn’t upset that element of our base which actually believes that anyone who comes here should be allowed to come in.” That element exists. There are people in American politics and in American political discourse who believe that if you make it across the border, unless you’re the worst possible human being, you should be allowed to stay, even if you came illegally.

What was this plan? I called this out in December. The plan is: “Let’s do a border deal. Let’s call it a border deal. But let’s make sure it doesn’t stop migration, because we don’t want to upset our base. But let’s also make sure that it’s bipartisan. Let’s get some Republicans to sign onto it, and then let’s get it passed through the Senate. And then when the House kills it, we can say Joe Biden tried to fix the border, but these Neanderthals, these MAGA House members, they killed it. Blame them from now on.” 

I’m not speculating here. There [are left-wing activists who say]: “We’re going to vote against you. Your name is ‘Genocide Joe.’” They disrupt his speeches. He tried to give a speech the other day. I think there were 40 or so interruptions. They’ve been in the hallways here. It’s not just the weirdos from this Code Pink communist group, but it’s others screaming at us: “You need to do this. You need to do that. We have an element of our base in some states that say they’re not going to vote for you because you’re helping Israel too much.”

That’s where you see the leaks. The first leak that came out is, “The president hung up on Netanyahu.” Then you see another leak a couple of weeks ago, “We’re going to have a two-state solution.” Never mind the fact that the two most prominent Palestinian groups in the region are groups that do things like give cash rewards for killing Jews. The more Jews you kill, the more money your family gets. Pay to slay. It’s groups that, for example, in their schools, when their kids are four, five, six years of age, their textbooks teach them, “Jews are subhuman, and they’re evil.” These groups are not interested in a two-state solution. These groups are calling for a one-state solution from the river to the sea. No Jews, only them. I would love for a two-state solution to be possible, but not as long as those people are around. But that’s the other thing they threw out there. 

Yesterday, we read that the White House has sent emissaries, top aides, to Michigan, to meet with some of these upset activists to see if we could somehow bring them along so they’ll vote for him in November. You know who some of these people were? More than one of them were people that have openly been supportive of both Hamas and Hezbollah, calling them freedom fighters. At least one of them is a guy who has publicly said on multiple occasions that the U.S. government is controlled by Zionist money. That’s who the White House went to meet with yesterday. 

Last night, we were treated to a press conference by the president of the United States. In what I imagine was an unscripted moment, he says Israel’s response to Hamas has been “over the top,” which is ironic, because we are being asked to pass a bill that has all this money for Israel. What are we funding? We’re funding Israel’s “over-the-top” campaign against Hamas. It doesn’t make any sense, except for politics. That’s how politics influences all this. 

I would conclude by just taking us back to the original point…. People in everyday life, hard-working people, say: “How come we’re not doing anything about the border? Why aren’t we making that a priority? Why don’t we ever read that the Senate is staying in through the weekend, arguing and fighting and working on something real to stop the border crisis?” There is a growing number of Americans that always feel that when it comes to a major issue and a major fight, they’re always second behind another country, behind another group, behind somebody else. These Americans have been told for the better part of 20 years: “We have to take care of others before we focus on your problems. Let’s send our jobs and our factories to other countries, because it’s good for the global economy. I know we have homeless veterans, record amounts of suicides, and these tragedies, but let’s spend more money housing migrants in this country, illegally to begin with.” 

For a year now, the Venezuelan community in South Florida has been telling me to be careful, because some of the people that are coming from Venezuela now are clearly gang bangers. They were right. They warned me a year ago, but now we’re seeing it. You saw it last week when five or seven of them assaulted police officers, were arrested, and were released within an hour, without any bail. They flipped the middle finger to America and walked right out back to the migrant shelter, paid for by taxpayers. You saw it last Sunday, when an illegal migrant of Palestinian descent went to Nassau County in New York, walked up to some guy’s house, and tore down his Israel and American flags. When the guy confronted him, he assaulted the guy and started screaming things about, “We’re going to kill all the Jews.” 

Those are just two examples. I can give you more. People are watching this stuff, and they’re angry: “Why don’t you guys do something about that? Why aren’t you staying through the weekend about that? Why aren’t those people being deported immediately? How about these people here on student visas? You’re a visitor to the United States of America on a student visa, and you’re in the street calling for Intifada, but we can’t deport you. We know who you are. You’re not here illegally. You’re here on a visa. If you had said all that stuff, we probably wouldn’t have given you the visa. But now that you’re here, you get to keep the visa. They won’t deport those people. Why aren’t you fighting about that?”

Most Americans have nothing against Ukraine. Most Americans want to help Ukraine. But I don’t think it’s unreasonable for them to say: “What about us? What about our country? What about our invasion? What about our border?” I want to say this with as much respect as I can, but there’s nobody in the Senate that can lecture me on immigration. This is not a political issue. I’ve lived it my whole life. This is not immigration. 3.3 million people released into the country, 5,000 to 10,000 people a day illegally arriving in the country, that’s not immigration. Immigration is a good thing. Mass migration is a bad thing. And that’s what this is. This is a mass migration. And it’s not good for anyone. 

It’s not even good for the migrants, many of whom are raped and killed along the way. It’s good for the traffickers. It’s good for the enemies of this country. But it’s not good for the migrants. This is mass migration. People say, “If you’re against this, and you want to be strict about immigration, that’s anti-immigrant,” which is silly, at least if they say it to me. I’m not anti-rain. I’m anti-flood. Does being against flooding make you anti-rain? No. And being against mass migration does not make you anti-immigration.

Beyond the issues of sovereignty and common sense and the costs involved, beyond all of that, do we really think that you can release 600,000 people with either criminal convictions or pending criminal charges into the country, and nothing’s going to happen? You think you can release 600,000 people with criminal histories, and they’re all of a sudden all going to become entrepreneurs and start some tech company? No, the chances are that a lot of them are going to continue to be criminals. You’re going to have a crime wave. It’s already starting. No part of this country will be immune from it. 

And do you think ISIS, or any terrorist organization in the world, no matter what sewer they live in or what cave they’re hiding in, isn’t aware that the largest, most effective human smuggling operation in all of human history is operating right on the border of the United States? You don’t think they’re aware of it? The guys that were involved in 9/11 actually came here on a visa pretending to be flight students. The people who commit the next 9/11, God forbid, won’t have to pretend anything. All they’ll have to say is, “I come from a country where people are kidnapped, where people are often victims of crime, and you must let me in.” For all we know, some of them may actually become citizens, because they’re going to get asylum. 

I won’t divulge any intelligence information, so let’s just use common sense. Common sense tells you that these groups and these terrorist organizations understand that the largest human smuggling operation in the history of mankind operates right at the border of the United States. Don’t we think anything is going to come out as a result of it? Something bad is going to happen. Something really bad is bound to happen. And when it does, remember this day. When it does, when something really bad happens, when we are overrun by a horrible crime wave in multiple cities, [remember this day]. 

The Mariel boatlift brought roughly 200,000 people from Cuba all at once. It took Miami ten years to dig out of that. Bill Clinton lost his re-election because he agreed to take in some of those people into a federal facility in Arkansas, and they set it on fire. There were a lot of people that came in through the Mariel and were fine. There were also a bunch of criminals, sadists, and lunatics. When you take a lot of people from anywhere, you’re going to have the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Every month recently, we’ve had two Mariel’s. You think that you’re going to allow a flood of people into America, and something bad is not going to happen? Sadly, it is. It’s just a matter of time. And when it does, things that now may sound extreme to some aren’t just going to sound reasonable, they’re going to sound overdue. You know what they’re going to ask us: “How could you have allowed this to happen?” 

I end where I began. If all you do is spend your time here and watch those networks and read these columnists and newspapers, you may lose this perspective. But I promise you, in the real world, on planet Earth, in this country, among everyday people, most of them are saying: “You want to help Ukraine? We’re for it. You want to help Israel? Of course. Yes, we should help Taiwan. But who’s helping America? Why isn’t helping our country deal with this migrant crisis number one, before those other things?”

They tell you on an airplane, if the oxygen masks deploy, put on your mask and then put the one on your kid. How useful is America to anyone in the world, to any country on this planet, if we’re falling apart inside? And who do we work for? We work for the American people. I am a United States citizen. I am a United States senator. I care about things that are going on in the world. No one’s ever accused me of being an isolationist. And those things do matter to America. But you have to start with the fundamentals, and that is, you have to be strong at home in order to be able to be strong for our allies. 

We are being invaded. Today, 8,000 to 10,000 people will enter the United States illegally and unlawfully. We don’t know who most of them are. Don’t let them tell you that they do. You can buy fake travel documents in Latin America. It’s an industry. I’m just telling you, we are going to have something bad happen, and people are going to ask: “Why didn’t you guys fight over that? Why didn’t you stay over the weekend to discuss that? Why are we focused on an invasion of another country, which is important, but not focused on the invasion of our own country?” [This crisis] can be solved. The president’s executive orders created it, and he can reverse it. But he won’t, so here we are.