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Connecting Job Growth with Immigration Reform
Marco Rubio, Republican Senator from Florida, opened the second day of the Washington Ideas Forum Thursday with a discussion on immigration, the American middle class, and the fiscal cliff with Major Garrett, White House Correspondent for National Journal.
"You can't cut your way out of this," Rubio said of the looming fiscal crisis. "You can't tax your way out of this. The only way out of this is rapid and healthy economic growth."
Rubio, who sits on four committees -- Commerce, Science & Transportation; Foreign Relations; Intelligence; and Small Business and Entrepreneurship -- said that it was critical to assess why the middle class isn't working. Both globalization, and the lack of training to fill current jobs, have contributed.
"We have to ensure we are educating and training our people so that they have the skills for these middle class jobs to the extent that they're still being created, and we have to figure out a way to stir up economic growth so that those jobs are still being created, and increasingly created, in America," he said.
The discussion on the American middle class quickly turned to immigration, both legal and illegal, which Rubio said is split into two general categories: family reunification and employment-based. "I am committed to continuing a family-based system of immigration," he said. "I think it's important. I think America is a better country because people like my parents were able to come here."
Rubio and Garrett discussed the political tensions surrounding the legalization of immigrations who are in the country illegally. "One million people immigrate to the U.S. every year legally. There is no other country in the world that comes close to that figure," he said. "So we are still extremely generous when it comes to immigration, more than any other country in the history of the world. But we have a problem with how it's done, and it needs to be reformed."
With 11 million undocumented workers in the U.S., Rubio stressed the need to reform the current immigration system in such a way that doesn't incentivize future illegal immigration. He also warned that how immigration is discussed within the Republican part is critical to the larger conversation.
"It's really hard to get people to listen to you on economic growth, tax rates, on health care etc., if they think you want to deport their grandmother," Rubio said. "You can be for legal immigration. You don't have to be for amnesty, but you also need to understand that we're speaking about human beings."