Rubio Says Politicians Have No Incentive to Solve the Nation’s Immigration Problem

By Amanda Swysgood | June 26, 2012 | 10:59 AM EDT

( - Illegal immigration is a “powerful political issue” that is used to raise campaign money; inspire panic, fear and anger; and then turn those emotions into votes, Sen. Marco Rubio told a group of Latino leadership officials on Friday, June 22.

“As long as this issue of immigration is a political ping-pong that each side uses to win elections and influence votes, I’m telling you it won’t get solved – because there are too many people who have concluded that this issue unresolved is more powerful. They want it to stay unresolved. It’s easier to use to influence elections. It’s easier to use to raise money.”

Rubio told the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) that a balanced approach is the only way to solve the ‘complicated’ immigration problem.

“I think the way you have to do it is you have to approach it, number one, by understanding that we have to win the confidence of the American people back -- the confidence that we’re serious about discouraging illegal immigration in the future, and that’s why enforcement processes are as important as any reform,” he said.

“But I also think we have to reform our legal immigration system. I tell people all the time, the single greatest contributor to illegal immigration is a burdensome, bureaucratic, and complicated legal immigration process.”

Rubio said that millions of people who are in the U.S. illegally would go home if they believed they could return to the U.S. again next year to work in their seasonal jobs. “I know of no one that wouldn’t rather emigrate legally, if they could afford it,” Rubio said.

“These are real people,” Rubio said of the estimated 12 million people who have come here illegally. “These are human beings who have children and hopes and dreams. These are people that are doing what virtually any of us would do if our children were hungry, if their countries were too dangerous, if they had no hope for the future. And too often in our conversation about immigration, that perspective is lost. Who among us what not do whatever it took to feed our children and to provide them with a better future?” he asked.

He also stated that “illegal immigration is a real problem” with serious consequences.

“And the great question then is, ‘Well, what do you do about them?’ And I’ve talked about what you do with the kids, (but) what about everybody else?”

As previously reported, Rubio has been working on an alternative to the Democrats’ DREAM Act that would allow younger illegal aliens who came to the United States "through no fault of their own" to stay here legally and, if they wished, get in line to become a citizen.

"There is nothing that prohibits them from getting citizenship,” Rubio told the Tampa Bay Times in an April 3 interview in which he explained his plan. “We just don't create a new pathway. The bottom line is, they would have a visa of some sort and like…any other visa holder in this country (they) can get in line and apply for residency. You have to wait in line but you get to wait in line in the U.S. legally.

“They would be here living, studying, working, while they're waiting in line,” Rubio told the newspaper.

President Obama pre-empted Rubio’s legislative effort by announcing two weeks ago that his administration will grant as many as 800,000 younger illegal immigrants immunity from deportation and allow them to qualify for federal work permits.

Speaking on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday, Rubio noted that when he first introduced his approach to younger illegal aliens, Democrats criticized him – “the same people who are now applauding the president for doing something similar.”

As for why he hasn’t introduced his bill, Rubio told NBC, “If you are a responsible policymaker, you don't just rush out a piece of legislation that impacts the lives of potentially 800,000 people, that deeply affects the immigration laws of this country. You have to be careful. You have to have answers to every question. If I rush out a piece of legislation that's not ready, if I don't have every answer to every question that's going to be raised about that bill, it loses credibility from the onset. So I will continue to approach it as a responsible policymaker.”

“Here’s the truth,” Rubio told NALEO on Friday. “I know we’re not going to round up and deport 12 million people. I know we’re not going to grant amnesty to 12 million people. And somewhere between those two ideas is a solution -- that will never be easy.”

“But I promise you, it will get easier to find (a solution) if we have a legal immigration system that works -- and the confidence of the American people that we’re serious about enforcing our laws,” he said.

“How did we ever get to this point?” Rubio asked his Latino audience rhetorically. “How can immigration be a controversial and divisive issue in a nation of immigrants? How can a country built by people that came from everywhere else be so divided over who gets to come here now?”