Sen. Marco Rubio said this week that President Donald Trump’s “zero-tolerance” immigration policy is in line with what Trump campaigned for in 2016.
“Well, first of all, I think he campaigned on it and was elected on it,” the Florida Republican said of his onetime presidential campaign rival. “Whether you agree with him or not, to the extent that what he is doing now is consistent with what he promised he do if elected, I think people have to acknowledge that.”
“I think you have to separate the politics from the public policy making, and that’s become increasingly hard,” Rubio told David Axelrod on a televised edition of “The Axe Files,” airing Saturday at 7 p.m. ET.
The episode was taped before Trump signed his executive order ending family separations Wednesday.
Rubio said immigration “may very well be a winning issue for lot of people because there’s real frustration,” adding there’s “always been an audience” for anti-immigrant sentiment.
“So every society, when facing a wave of people from other places, reacts in this way and this has been true for thousands of years,” Rubio said.
The Florida senator, himself the child of Cuban immigrants, expressed disapproval of the family separations that came as a result of the “zero-tolerance” policy, which refers everyone caught illegally crossing the border to federal prosecution. Rubio said he “hated” to see the images of children being held away from their parents. More than 2,300 children were separated from their families from the time the policy was instituted.
Health experts have expressed concerns about the potential for long-term emotional and psychological damage. On Wednesday, the President signed an executive order to halt the family separations caused by his administration’s policy, but questions about family reunification remain.
Despite the President’s continued insistence on the need for the stringent immigration policy, Rubio said he believes the vast majority of those coming to the United States are fleeing desperate situations.
“Yes, there are people that cross the border that are dangerous and criminals and the like. I would say through my experience that the vast majority of people are coming because they just want a better life,” he said.
Rubio suggested the nation needs to find a balance in crafting its immigration policies.
“You can be for an (immigration system) that works and that has enforcement laws,” he said. “I think you also have to do it ways that doesn’t violate who we are as a people and what our character is as a nation.”
However, the Florida senator – who was a member of the “Gang of Eight” that unsuccessfully worked to pass into law comprehensive immigration reform in 2013 – acknowledged the difficulty of making such policies into legislative reality.
“It’s great to have great ideas, but in this republic, in order to turn an idea into a law, you have to come up with something that can pass the House, go to Senate, and be signed by whoever is president and be upheld by courts,” he said.