Sen. Marco Rubio, who kept silent yesterday as the Heritage Foundation released a study asserting massive costs under immigration reform, sharply pushed back today and offered up his parents as evidence of the immigrant contribution.
"Their argument is based on a single premise, which I think is flawed," Rubio told reporters. "That is, these people are disproportionately poor because they have no education and they will be poor for the rest of their lives in the U.S. Quite frankly, that’s not the immigration experience in the U.S. That’s certainly not my family’s experience in the U.S. The folks described in that report are my family. My mother and dad didn’t graduate high school and I would not say they were a burden on the United States
Rubio, who is close with Heritage's Jim DeMint, found some area to praise the report.
"They raised some valid points," he said. "We do want to address welfare benefits in the United States, the structure of the entitlement programs. But that’s not just true for immigrants; that’s true for everybody. ... I think the report, as much as anything else, is an argument for welfare reform and entitlement reform. Not necessarily an anti-illegal immigration reform study." (Heritage responds here)
This afternoon, Rubio is holding a closed-door meeting with conservatives, part of his effort to gain support for the bill. He and other proponents realize they need a strong showing in the Senate (though 70 votes seems a high bar) to provide momentum as the House takes up the debate.
Amendments are being filed today to the bill. Below, Rubio's statement about that process.
"Ending today’s de facto amnesty and fixing our broken immigration system is essential for America’s sovereignty, security, job creation, economic growth and preserving immigration as a source of our nation’s strength. Leaving the status quo in place would be disastrous.
“Since I first engaged on this issue I have repeatedly said that the bill we hoped to produce would serve as a starting point. Since the immigration bill was introduced last month, we have heard from thousands of voices across America. Some, quite frankly, will not support any bill, no matter what changes we make. But most of the suggestions we have heard raise legitimate points and suggestions on how to improve the bill. The good news is that it is now clear that the overwhelming majority of Americans across the entire political spectrum are prepared to address the fact that we have millions of human beings living here illegally, so long as we take measures that ensure that this never happens again. In particular, most conservatives are ready to support immigration reform, so long as it takes serious steps to prevent another wave of illegal immigration in the future.
“By mandating E-Verify and an entry-exit tracking system, and by investing over five billion additional dollars on border security, the current bill takes significant steps to prevent another wave of illegal immigration. But the federal government’s failure to enforce the law in the past has left people with little confidence in its ability to do so in the future. That is why in order for this bill to become law, it will have to be improved to bolster border security and enforcement even further and to limit the federal government’s discretionary power in applying the law. In addition, additional measures will be required to address potential costs to taxpayers.
“Throughout this next phase of the immigration debate, we want to continue hearing from the public about how to get immigration reform right. For members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, this is their first chance to make a good faith effort to improve the bill. I look forward to working with them throughout this process to ultimately fix our broken immigration system and ensure we never repeat today’s broken mess again. What is not an option is doing nothing. Anyone who opposes this bill but fails to offer a real and specific alternative is in favor of the status quo. And the status quo is de facto amnesty.”