Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, linked by heritage and party, at odds over path to citizenship

Published Jan. 29, 2013

Cuban-American, young, Republican and beloved by the tea party. But on immigration, Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Ted Cruz of Texas see things differently.

Rubio is part of the Gang of 8 that revealed the contours of an immigration overhaul, which includes a pathway to citizenship. "It is not going to be an easy process, but it's certainly going to be a fair one and a humane one and one that speaks to our nation's -- to our legacy, both as a nation of laws, but also as a nation of immigrants," Rubio said.

Cruz, in a statement, took issue with that approach. "There are some good elements in this proposal, especially increasing the resources and manpower to secure our border and also improving and streamlining legal immigration. However, I have deep concerns with the proposed path to citizenship. To allow those who came here illegally to be placed on such a path is both inconsistent with rule of law and profoundly unfair to the millions of legal immigrants who waited years, if not decades, to come to America legally."

Rubio was asked by Lou Dobbs this evening to respond to Cruz. His response below:

"I've long shared the same concern and that's why we've outlined it the way we have. What we do here for people that are undocumented is they have to come forward, undergo a background check, they have to pay fines and back taxes and so forth and then all they get is a temporary status basically, think of it as a probationary status, it allows them to stay in the country and work but they don't qualify for any federal benefits, they can't turn that into citizenship or anything else and they're going to have to be in that status for a significant period of time. Significant enough so that it's a disincentive to do it in the future for anybody. After that time has elapsed and after we have certified that the enforcement things have actually happened – because the big mistakes of the past have been they've done the legalization but they haven't done the enforcement and hence it's led to 11 million people. I don't want to ever have to do this again, so after both the period of time has elapsed and the enforcement things have happened, then the only thing they're going to get is the ability to apply for a green card just like anybody else would. Not in a special way, in a regular way by getting in line, qualifying for the visa they applied for, etc. So all we are going to give them a chance to ultimately earn is the chance to do what they should have done in the beginning. And that's try to enter the country illegally. And the other point I've made is they cannot leapfrog anybody who has applied before them legally. We don't want to see a single person who's done it the right way be disadvantaged as a result of this."

Sen. Marco Rubio at news conference announcing Senate immigration framework:

I live surrounded by immigrants. My neighbors are immigrants. My family is immigrants. Married into a family of immigrants.

I see immigration every single day. I see the good of immigration. I see how important it is for our future.

As most Americans, I recognize how critical an immigration system that works has been for our heritage as it is for our -- for our future. By the same token, I see the negative that illegal immigration has been for our country, and the problems that it causes. And the reality of it is, these are issues that the vast majority of Americans agree with as well. The vast majority of Americans believe that we need to have a legal immigration system that works, and they recognize that we have now is not a 21st century legal immigration system.

And that's why I am so pleased the first principle in this effort is one to modernize our immigration system so that it reflects the reality and the needs of the 21st century.

By the same token, we recognize America's a sovereign country that has a right to reform immigration laws, and has a right to reform them. And that's why I am pleased to look at these principles outline, not just the need to enforce our immigration laws, but to do so in the future in a way that ensures that we're never here again with a situation that we face today.

But none of this is possible if we did not address the reality that there are 11 million human beings in this country today that are undocumented. That's not something that anyone is happy about, that's not something that anyone wanted to see happen, but that is what happened. And we have an obligation and the need to address the reality of the situation that we face, and address it in a way that is fair to the people that are doing it the right way, in essence, the hundreds of people that come to our offices every year whose relatives from all around Latin America and the world are waiting in line to legally come here. We have to be fair to them.

We also have to ensure we did not do anything to encourage people to come here illegally in the future. But by the same token, we are dealing with 11 million human beings who are -- who are -- who are here undocumented, the vast and enormous majority of whom have come here in pursuit of what all of us would recognize as the American dream. And that's what we endeavor to move forward here on.

And there -- let me just say that, on both sides of this issue, there are legitimate points to be raised. There are people that are concerned about how much this is gonna cost the American economy. We have to be frank about dealing with those issues. This country owes $16 trillion.

By the same token, we need to be honest with ourselves with just how important immigration is to our economy, for agriculture, for guest workers, and -- and other laborers. And for those who are already here now, that are are making contributions towards our future.

And I'm -- I -- I think today is an important first step in what's going to be a significantly -- a significant complicated journey. Because, the issue of immigration is not a simple one. But I think we have the opportunity to do it right. And if we do, I think we'll do a tremendous service to our country and our future.