Finally, someone asked about the central question of immigration policy: How many? Here's what Maria Bartiromo asked of Rubio in Thursday night's Republican presidential debate in South Carolina:
Under current law, the U.S. is on track to issue more new permanent immigrants on green cards over the next five years than the entire population of South Carolina. The CBO says your 2013 immigration bill would have increased green cardholders by another 10 million over 10 years.
Why are you so interested in opening up borders to foreigners when American workers have a hard enough time finding work?
Unfortunately, Rubio dodged and weaved and brought up every other issue he could think of rather than answer. And he got away with it.
First, he suggested terrorist penetration of our immigration system wasn't a problem in 2013, when he served as the public face of Chuck Schumer's amnesty/immigration-surge bill:
The issue is a dramatically different issue than it was 24 months ago. Twenty-four months ago, 36 months ago, you did not have a group of radical crazies named ISIS who were burning people in cages and recruiting people to enter our country legally. They have a sophisticated understanding of our legal immigration system and we now have an obligation to ensure that they are not able to use that system against us.
Okay, but 24 months ago we had a group of radical crazies named al Qaeda who had a sophisticated understanding of our legal immigration system. My CIS colleague Steve Camarota published a report 164 months ago detailing "How Militant Islamic Terrorists Entered and Remained in the United States, 1993-2001". Spoiler alert: Most of them used our legal immigration system.
And freelance immigrant terrorists existed way back in 2013 too. In fact, Rubio and Schumer introduced their bill just two days after the Boston Marathon bombing; regarding immigration and terrorism, Rubio said at the time, "We should really be very cautious about using language that links these two things in any way." He also tweeted:
In the debate, Rubio followed this bogus diversion by making the legitimate point that Cruz had also backed increases in immigration (a position Cruz has renounced more recently). That should have led to a discussion of numbers but instead, Rubio proceeded to, as Cruz put it, dump his opposition research folder on the debate stage, talking about Cruz's views on crop insurance and Edward Snowden. There's a reason he launched this attack then, and not during their earlier discussions over, say, tax policy – Rubio knows he’s extraordinarily vulnerable on the immigration issue, especially on his continuing desire to double legal immigration (and triple H-1B visas), and he'll do or say anything to avoid discussing it.
If this question hadn't been buried til almost the end of the debate, and if the moderators (who did a good job overall) had pursued the issue and sought an actual answer to their question and gotten Trump and Jeb and the others to weigh in, voters might have had a better idea of the candidates' immigration views.
And here is Numbers USA’s ad on this exact question, that ran during the debate: