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Florida senator Marco Rubio, a key Republican backing the immigration bill in the Senate, said during a radio interview Tuesday night that he won't vote for the bill if it isn't amended to improve border security. "What we're trying to get to ideally is an amendment that dictates the number of fences and also where they're located," Rubio told radio host Hugh Hewitt. "That's what we're working towards." Rubio didn't mention specific border security provisions other than the proposed amendment on border fencing.
Rubio's office highlighted the following excerpts of the senator's interview in a press release Wednesday morning:
Rubio: “There’s a handful of Democrats and a sizable number of Republicans that are saying to us, ‘We’re prepared to do immigration reform, but we have to make sure there isn’t another wave of illegal immigration.’ So for those who want immigration reform, the task is very simple: Let’s strengthen the border security parts of this bill so that they’re stronger, so that they don’t give overwhelming discretion to the Department of Homeland Security. I think if we can do that, then you’re going to be able to get something done. But if you can’t, then it’s not going to happen.”
Hugh Hewitt: “And will you be the author of those amendments?”
Rubio: “We’re working on it right now. I’ll be involved in it for sure. I think there are other senators that have taken a lead, and I’ll let them kind of come out in the next couple of days with their specific ideas. But we’ve been involved on a daily basis working with them to get to the right point in terms of real measures. And what we’ve heard is people don’t want to just turn it over to the Department of Homeland Security to come up with a plan. They want the plan to be laid out with specifically real measurables. I think that’s a good approach. And so we’re working with members now to do that. We expect to hear from them here in the next couple of days.”
Hewitt: “If those amendments don’t pass, will you yourself support the bill that emerged from Judiciary, Senator Rubio?”
Rubio: “Well, I think if those amendments don’t pass, then I think we’ve got a bill that isn’t going to become law and I think we’re wasting our time. So the answer is no. If they don’t pass, then we have to keep working to ensure that we get to a bill that can become a law. We’re not interested in passing a Senate bill. We’re interested in passing a law that reforms a broken legal immigration system, that begins to enforce the law, and that deals with the 11 million people who are here illegally. And that is the goal of this endeavor. And so, if those amendments fail, we’ve got to go back to the drawing board and keep working until we can figure out one that will pass. But I don’t understand why anyone would be against it. In essence, I don’t think there is a good reason to be against strengthening border security for our country. … The vast majority of [people] are prepared to support immigration reform the way we’ve laid it out, but only if we can pass an amendment that ensures that we will never have another wave of illegal immigration again. And that is where I’m really going to focus my energies — on trying to get language into this bill that gets us that support.”
You can listen to the entire interview here:
Update: Politico's Burgess Everett reports on details of a border security amendment that Sen. John Cornyn intends to introduce:
The Texas Republican wants stricter border patrol provisional “triggers” before registered immigrants are allowed to apply for green card status. His amendment would require 100 percent operational control of the Southern borders and that 90 percent of illegal border crossers be apprehended. It would also require 100 percent border surveillance, or situational awareness, of each one-mile segment of the Southern border and installment of a national E-Verify system before registered immigrants can pursue green cards.
Cornyn’s amendment would also add 10,000 Border Patrol officers over five years and deliver emergency funds for border control, including $1 billion a year in entry staffing and infrastructure.
Rubio has been working on the amendment with Cornyn "for weeks," a Rubio aide tells Politico.