Coming up Wednesday

Wildfires burn through Colorado causing thousands to evacuate, and protests in Turkey are in 13th day. Tune in at 7am ET.
June 19th, 2012
11:37 AM ET

Sen. Barrasso says President Obama's executive order on immigration 'has actually made the problem worse'

Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) is dropping his efforts to draft a Republican alternative to the DREAM Act. The decision comes just days after President Obama announced a similar plan by executive order on Friday.

Under the new policy, the Obama administration will not deport most young people that have been brought illegally into the U.S. by their parents. In an interview, Rubio said he and other Republicans were not consulted about that plan, and criticized the president's move as an election year pander to Latino voters.

Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) talks with Soledad on "Starting Point" this morning to explain his opposition to President Obama's executive order on immigration.

See more from the interview in the clip below. Transcript available after the jump.


O'BRIEN: Marco Rubio clearly makes it seem as if it's very political and very similar to what he was going to propose anyway. Would you agree with him? Are you disappointed and angry?

SEN. JOHN BARRASSO (R), WYOMING: Well, I agree with Marco Rubio.

You know, the president said that in his first years in office, this would be one of his highest priorities to deal with the issue of illegal immigration in this country. The president failed to do that, pushing through a very unpopular health care law. He pushed his cap and trade program, raising energy prices for people. But yet, the president ignored this until just five months before an election.

And Marco Rubio was working in a bipartisan way, in a bipartisan way, Republicans and Democrats alike, to look for a long-term solution to one of the issues of illegal immigration.

O'BRIEN: Well -

BARRASSO: The president by doing what he did is basically I think delayed finding any kind of long-term solution and has actually made the problem worse.

O'BRIEN: Explain that to me. Why the delay? Because Marco Rubio, as you know, never had an actual proposal. So, why do you think that means a delay now with what the president has done?

BARRASSO: Well, Marco was working with Republicans and Democrats alike to come up with a solution for a concern that he has raised and he has worked with. And it's been a signature issue for him.

And yet the president by doing what he has done, by presidential edict, basically, deciding that the law of the land doesn't matter. That he as president chooses as one person to just have the law of the land not be enforced, is something that I think is - is wrong for the country. It is not a way for a government to work, and excludes the American people and the decision making.

And the American people are involved in making the laws of this land, participating in democracy, electing people and then you go on from there.

O'BRIEN: It's certainly not the first presidential order. Will?

CAIN: You know, what's interesting. Let's hone in on Senator Barrasso's criticism here. It seems to be about the process by which the president pushed this legislation through, or push this edict through the executive office.

Senator Barrasso, I'm curious to know then, on the merits of the issue, on the actual merits of the policy the president seems willing to pursue, it seems to be largely similar to Marco Rubio's proposals. Do you support the merit of what the president is proposing?

BARRASSO: I'm not talking about yes or no on the merit. I'm talking about the fact that we have laws on the books, and the president side deciding as one person not to enforce the laws of the land.

O'BRIEN: I hear you on that. But I think will's question is, we gather that. But do you support the merits or not?

BARRASSO: I think we ought to enforce the laws of the land. Illegal immigration continues to be a major problem in the United States. We have people waiting to come here legally. And we should not be rewarding people who have come here illegally.

And I'll continue to fight for that position. I support what Marco Rubio is working on in the sense that, you're right, we have not seen the final efforts. But he has been working in a bipartisan way with people to look for a permanent solution to one of the issues of illegal immigration, something that could pass the House and the Senate in a bipartisan way, with the buy-in (ph) of American people, and then would be the law of the land.

O'BRIEN: So you would support something if it were permanent, and that's what you have an issue with, because it sounds -

CAIN: And pushed through with the democratic process it sounds like.

O'BRIEN: OK. Let me ask you this. Back in 2007 when you were pitching a bill called the Barrasso No License for Illegals Bill, you said, frankly, this is just a small bite of the growing immigration national security problem. It makes sense to fix those thing that can be done right now. Meaning, you know, you tackle the things in front of you. It sounds a little bit in some ways similar to what's happening here. It's not?

BARRASSO: Well, that had to do with drivers licenses for people who were in the country illegally. I oppose giving driver's licenses to people who are in the country illegally. It is a form of identification. It is often viewed as an issue related to citizenship. I am opposed to that and will continue to oppose any efforts to give illegal immigrants driver's licenses.

And I raise this at the time when the then-governor of New York was promoting a piece of legislation - it was Eliot Spitzer at the time, was supporting legislation to give drivers licenses to illegal immigrants. I do not think that should be done. And I think ultimately that was pulled back in New York state.


O'BRIEN: But your point was - forgive me for interrupting. But my point was instead of tackling the national reform with immigration was let's work on this small thing, this is just a small bite of the growing problem. It's what you said. It makes sense to fix those things that can be done right now. Ergo, we're going to focus on drivers license because this is a little piece we can handle right now.

It sounds like the young people, sort of the DREAM Act kids that people are talking about, would be that same little thing that you could do right now, which is what the had the president has done. Is that right?

BARRASSO: Well, the president has chosen not to enforce the law of the land. What Marco Rubio was doing with the legislation he was working in a bipartisan way involving Republicans and Democrats alive, House and Senate, he was working on fixing an area of concern that he was focused, which is not all of the illegal immigration, not the entire immigration issue, but this focused on a specific select group, just as I was doing with the driver's license law.

That's why what I think Marco was working on something that would pass the House, pass the Senate, and get signed into law is very different than a presidential edict (AUDIO GAP) I'm above the law. I get to decide what the laws will be and what laws that I will choose as president to ignore. And I don't think any president should do that.

HOOVER: Senator Barrasso, what would it take, Margaret Hoover, to actually get comprehensive illegal immigration plan through? Because as you know, President Bush and Senator Kennedy worked very diligently on a comprehensive immigration plan in 2006, 2007, and it went down in partisan flames.

So, you know, we can talk idealistic about a comprehensive immigration reform plan, but what's it going to take?

BARRASSO: Well, you just said it went down in partisan flames. I thought it went down in bipartisan flames. You mentioned President Bush as well as Senator Kennedy, who may have supported it, and others in a bipartisan way, opposed that proposal.

It's going to take an effort of people really addressing first securing the borders, making sure the borders are secure, and dealing with the issue of folks that are here now illegally, who have broken the law. And it's a much bigger debate.

But what Senator Rubio has focused on what I was focused on in 2007 is a component of that. And as you said, work on one part of that at a time, and that's what Senator Rubio is now withdrawn because of the divisive efforts of the president in this run-up to the election to try to go after a certain segment of the population.

O'BRIEN: Congress has been tackling immigration reform since 2001, and then 2007, and then 2010 twice. So, yes, it's going to be a long haul, I think. Thank you, sir. We appreciate your time.

Filed under: Congress • Immigration
soundoff (No Responses)

Post a comment


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.