(CNSNews.com) - Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), asked what he would do with the 12 million people who are in the country illegally, said he wouldn't deal with them at all until he's spent billions of dollars securing the border and hiring tens of thousands of new border agents.
Fox News's Greta Van Susteren asked Rubio Tuesday night, "If it were President Marco Rubio today, what would you do with those 12 million, if anything?"
"I'm going to outline for you exactly what we do with the people that are here illegally," Rubio responded. "But first, I'm going to tell you what we need to do before we get to that point. And that is, we have to enforce our immigration laws in the following way.
"We need to spend about -- it's going to cost about $4 to $4.5 billion to put additional metrics and technology on the border -- cameras, censors, drones. We need at least 10 to 15, maybe 20,000 new border agents. We need to fully complete the 700 miles of real fencing and walls. Not just pedestrian fencing.
"We need a mandatory E-verify system. We need an entry/exit tracking system to prevent people from overstaying visas. When I'm president, we will do all of those things. And only after we do all of those things, and they are in place and they are working, and we prove to people that illegal immigration numbers have come down, then we move to dealing with the people that are here illegally."
"And here's what I say. If you have been in this country longer than 12 years, you can pass a background check. If you are a criminal, you can't stay. You've learned English or (are) learning English. You will be charged a fine. You will be fined for having violated our laws. You have to start paying taxes, meaning you have to be gainfully employed. And you will get a work permit. And that is all you are going to have for at least a decade.
"And after that decade has expired, I personally am open to allowing them to apply for a green card like anybody else would. That's not a majority position in my party. So it may not be possible to do that. But even the work permit is something that's a lot better than the chaos we have now. But let me be clear, we can't even begin that process I have outlined until we do enforcement first."
Rubio said the comprehensive immigration reform bill that he co-sponsored in 2013 went nowhere because it required the enforcement element to proceed concurrently with legalization. "And people were very clear, we don't want it that way. We want enforcement first, then we can focus on what do you do with the people that are here illegally. As president, that's what we are going to do. We are going to do it the right way."
Van Susteren also asked Rubio why he was one of two senators to skip a vote on the massive omnibus spending bill that finally passed last week. "Why weren't you there?" she asked him.
"Greta, because that sort of bill is a typical Washington move. They went behind closed doors. They cut this deal. They sprung it on everybody. They said here's a take it or leave it vote. The outcome was predetermined. And I'm out running for president so this never happens again. So we were in Iowa and we were working hard because we are going to win this election so the American people are no longer subjected to these kinds of votes where the outcomes are already predetermined.
"And at the end of the day, it's an issue that was no transparency on. It was put together in 48 hours and rammed down the throat of Congress."