Remarks at the First in the Nation Republican Leadership Summit in Nashua, New Hampshire
Rubio: Thank you. It's an honor to be here. Thank you very much. It has been a fascinating week, probably the most historic week of my life. On Monday, I declared for president. [applause]
And it has been a fun journey. And I wrote some notes down because I wanted to remember everything that's happened. Let's see, I was asked whether 43 was old enough to be president. I said I wasn't sure, but I'm pretty sure 44 is. [laughter]
I've worn more wire than an FBI informant in terms of microphones. [laughter]
Scott Brown tonight let me know that Hillary Clinton's going to raise $2.5 billion, which that's a lot of chipotle, my friends. [laughter]
And on the way here I was texting with my youngest daughter and I meant to say, you know, I'll be in Nashua, but I guess the spell check changed it to Nassau and so she wrote back, how many delegates does the Bahamas have? [laughter]
I said I'm not sure, but we're going to go for every single one of them.
It's an honor to be here with you tonight.
Thank you, Jennifer, for inviting me.
It's great to see Scott Brown. We miss him in the U.S. Senate. We wish he had come back. We know he has a future in whatever he decides to do. [applause]
We miss him in the Senate gym, too. He's one of the few people that actually worked out in the Senate gym. Everybody else is just there to watch "Morning Joe" on the TV or something. [laughter]
But you have a great senator in Kelly Ayotte, someone I've worked with very closely, particularly on national security issues. She's phenomenal. You must send her back and I hope we'll do everything we can to make sure that happens. [applause]
So running for president is a decision that one makes after a lot of thought, prayer and consideration. And I spent the time thinking about it. And what I concluded from all of it is one very important thing and I want to share that with you tonight and I want to tell you why I believe it. I believe with all my heart that we are on the verge of another American century. I believe with all my heart that America's greatest days are right around the corner. And more than anything else, that's the reason that propelled me to run, because I believe that if we do certain things our children will be the freest and most prosperous Americans that have ever lived. That's important. It's important to remember who we are as a nation and as a people.
You know, about 200 years ago at the turn of the 19th century, America was still largely an undeveloped country. The rest of the world was industrializing, particularly in Europe and Great Britain. America was still an underdeveloped country that was trying to find its bearings.
And then a generation of American leadership decided that in that moment of great economic transition they were going to embrace it, they were going to embrace industrialization, they were going to embrace the industrial revolution. And it was disruptive. It moved millions of people from rural areas to cities. It destroyed certain jobs and replace them with new ones.
But out of that disruptive period and out of that transition emerged the greatest nation in all of human history. And by the turn of the 20th century, America was the largest industrial power on the planet. By the turn of the 20th century, America had the most robust economy that man had ever known.
And I want you to think about for a moment, what if they had never made that decision? What if that generation of Americans had not embraced the opportunities of that time and confronted the challenges of that moment? What would the 20th century have looked like? How would World War II have ended? Not well. If there would have even been a Cold War, how would that have ended? Not well. And personally, I wonder, what would my life have been like? Because you see, there would not have been a place like America for my parents to go to.
I've told this story many times because to me it's what reminds me every single day of how unique this nation is. Throughout all of human history, almost everyone that has ever lived has lived in a society that told them you can only go as far as your parents went before you. Whatever your family did, that's the only thing you're allowed to do.
But what has made us special is that here that has not been the case. My parents understood that they were both born into poor families. My father lost his mother when he was 9 years old. He went to work as a 9-year old and would work for the next 70 years of his life. My mother was one of seven girls raised in rural Cuba by a poor family with a disabled father, left disabled by polio as a child, who struggled to provide for his seven girls.
They had dreams when they were young. There were things they wanted to be and do, but they couldn't because they found themselves in a society that told them you just can't do those things. And I want you to imagine what that must have felt like to live in a society that tells you no matter how hard you work or how much you try there are things you cannot do because of who you come from and where you come from.
So in 1956 they came here to the one place on earth where people like them could have a chance. My parents never made it big here. They were never rich, they were never famous, but they were successful, because just a few decades removed from poverty my parents owned a home, they had stable jobs, they retired with security and they left all four of their children better off than themselves.
Now, that happens to be my story. That actually is our story. It defines us as a nation and as a people. It's what makes us exceptional and different from the rest of the world. It is our identity.
And today it is in doubt. Today there are millions of Americans who are starting to believe that we're no longer that kind of country. And let me tell you why they feel that way, and you may know because you either know them or you are them.
They're living paycheck to paycheck. They have what was a great job 10 years ago, but now it doesn't go far enough. They literally live one unexpected expense away from disaster.
They're young people who did everything we asked of them, they went to school, they got a degree and now they can't find a job. They're the person trying to start a small business out of the spare bedroom of their home. Yes, it's in violation of the zoning code... [laughter]
...but it's a good business. But they're struggling because government regulations are benefiting big companies at the expense of them.
And as a result, our identify as a nation of exceptional opportunity is in doubt.
Why is this happening to the greatest nation in human history? And the answer is because we have too many leaders that are trapped in the past, people who think it's still the 20th century, people who still think the ideas from yesterday will propel us tomorrow, and they never have and they never will.
America's nation that is proud of its history, but it has always been about its future. And our future has the opportunity to be better than our history, but to do so we must confront the challenges and embrace the opportunities of our time. In essence, we must do what that generation of Americans did at the dawn of the industrial age.
What that means in our public policy is pretty straightforward. First, we need to understand and accept that we are now engaged in a global competition for investment, for innovation and for talent. And our government policies are holding us back from winning that competition. We have a tax code that makes America one of the most expensive places to invest and innovate on the planet. We have regulations that are crushing innovation innovation in our country and holding people back.
We have "Obamacare" that has not just dramatically transformed the way health care is delivered, but actually discourages businesses from hiring more people.
We have energy policies that are keeping us from fully utilizing energy resources that we've been blessed with as a nation.
But if we fix these things with a pro-growth tax policy that once again says the more jobs you create, the more businesses you open, the less you'll pay in taxes, if we limit the size and scope of regulations, if we repeal and replace "Obamacare" with a plan that allows every American to buy the health insurance they want from any company anywhere in America, and if we fully utilize our energy resources, then I have full confidence that in this 21st century the American people will do what they have always done, they will create millions, not just of good jobs, but better-paying jobs, 21st century jobs.
But that alone is not enough. The second reality of this new century is that the better-paying jobs of today require more skills and more education than ever before. And we have a higher-education system that is doing a phenomenal job of preparing our people to compete in the 20th century, but not to compete and win in the 21st.
For starters, why don't we graduate people anymore from high school ready to go to work to work as welders and as plumbers and as BMW technicians or, I guess, Ford technicians or any other technician? Why have we stigmatized these careers? These are good-paying jobs and we can teach people to do this while they're 16, 17, 18 years of age.
We also need to provide flexibility in higher education so people that have to work full time and raise a family can also acquire the skills they need to improve their life so that the receptionist that's making $9 an hour can become a paralegal making $60,000 a year, so that the home health aide making $9 or $10 an hour can become a dental hygienist making 65 or $70,000 a year. Today people can't because if you have to work full time and raise a family you can't drop everything and sit in a classroom for two or four years.
We need to provide flexible programs that allow people to learn at their own pace, online, on nights, on weekends and throughout the year.
And third, we have to stop graduating people from college with degrees that do not lead to jobs. [applause]
We can't afford to do this anymore. There are young people in America borrowing thousands of dollars in student loans for degrees that do not lead to jobs. And I've proposed a pretty simple, straightforward idea. It's actually bipartisan. And here's what it says: Before you take out a student loan, your school has to tell you how much you can expect to make when you graduate from that school with that degree so you can decide... [applause]
...so you can decide whether that basket-weaving degree that you are seeking... [laughter]
I used to always cite some major, Greek philosophy, the [inaudible] would get offended, so whatever it may be. Greek philosophy is good, by the way, for those of you that are fans. [laughter]
So that people stop borrowing money for degrees that do not lead to jobs.
And the third thing we have to do is we have to accept that we truly live in a global age. We are 4 to 5 percent of the world's population, you and I, we Americans. We need there to be millions of people on this planet that can afford to buy what we sell, what we make and the services that we offer.
But you cannot have global prosperity without American leadership because you can't have stability without American leadership. There is no replacement for America on the global stage. The United Nations can't do it. God forbid, China won't do it. Russia can't do it.
There's only one nation in the world capable of rallying the freedom-loving people of this planet to confront evil. And the lessons of history are that evil is either confronted and defeated or it grows and it spreads.
Look around the world today. It is chaos in every region of this planet, from Asia where China today literally is building islands to stakeout its illegitimate claims in the South China Sea, to Latin America with the spread of anti-Americanism and the erosion of democracy, in Europe where Vladimir Putin is trying to rewrite the end of the Cold War, to the Middle East where after 3,800 years of instability it's more unstable than ever with the spread of radical jihadist groups and Iran moving full steam ahead in its regional hegemonic intentions.
America can't solve all these problems on its own, but none of these problems can be solved without America. And we have a president that's eviscerated our military capabilities and withdrawn America from the world because he believes we are the cause of these problems, not the solution to these problems. [applause]
These are our challenges. These are also our opportunities. Because if we can have a vibrant economy again, if we can equip our people with the skills they need for the 21st century and if we can reengage America and its global leadership, then I tell you with full confidence that the 21st century will also be an American century. I believe that with all my heart and so should you. But these things won't happen on its own.
And it reminds us that the election of 2016 will not be a choice about what laws we're going to pass or whether it's going to be a Republican or a Democrat. 2016 is a referendum on our identity. The fundamental question before us is, what kind of country do we want to be? Do we want to remain special or are we prepared to become just like everybody else?
You know, tonight as I speak to you my wife and children are in Orlando, Florida at a volleyball tournament. And I wish I was there, although I'm very happy to be here with you. [laughter]
I make that point to you because when you make the decision to run for president you realize you're going to be away from home. There are days that you're not going to be there and there are volleyball tournaments that you're going to miss.
What allowed me to finally make the decision to run is that I understood that this election is as much about them as it is about anybody else for their generation, my children's generation is the most important generation in American history, because they will either be the freest and most prosperous Americans that have ever lived, or the first to inherit a diminished country from their parents.
And it reminds me of all my parents did for me, and it should remind you of all your parents and grandparents did for you. The Americans that were here before us, they did what had to be done in their time. They faced the challenges, they embraced the opportunities of their new era. And because of it, each and every one of us inherited the single-greatest nation in all of human history. They did so as a nation and they did so as people.
My father worked events just like this for decades and into his 70s. He stood behind a bar just like the one at the back of this room. On nights when he was tired, when he didn't want to work, he stood behind that bar because the purpose of my parents' life was to give us all the chances they never had, to open all the doors for us that were not open for us, that all the dreams they once had for themselves would come true for me and for my siblings.
That's not just my story, that's our story. This is who we are. And this is who we must still be.
And if you want to know whether America will remain special or not, it won't be based on the size of our economy or the power of our military — these things are important — it will be based on whether or not the people who are trying to do this now can still do it, the people who tonight or tomorrow morning will clean your rooms in this hotel and the ones who served us your food today, the people that just, even as we speak, are using the free WiFi at a Starbucks to operate their new business that they have big dreams about, the young student that'll take two buses in the morning to attend a better school across town, the single mother who has made it the purpose of her life to ensure that her children have the opportunities she never did.
If their dreams come true, then the 21st century will be the greatest era in our nation's history. And if they do not come true, then we will always be known as the generation that allowed America to diminish and decline.
This is what this election is about. This is what we fight for. This is the reason why we're engaged in public service and this is the reason why we're engaged in politics. This isn't a sport, this is about the future of America and about its very identity. [applause]
But I believe this 21st century will also be an American century and so should you, for at the end of the day there isn't a nation on this earth that I would trade places with. There's no other country I look at today and I say to myself I would rather be them than us.
The 21st century can be an American century if we want it to be. Now it is up to you and I go to out and to seize it, to be the party of the future, to show those who are trying to improve their lives that we are the party with the ideas and the plan to get us there. And if we do these things, then we will be able to leave for our children what Americans always leave for their children, the single- greatest nation in the history of all mankind.
Thank you for having me. I look forward to answering your questions. [applause]
Thank you. Thank you. [applause]
Unknown Speaker: [inaudible] take some questions. So you know the routine, raise your hand, we'll bring the microphone over. [inaudible]
Q: Thank you. Thank you, Senator. And I've asked this before. I want to know who you get along with on the Democratic side, only because if you are going to be president of the United States you have to work with everyone.
Q: So please tell me.
Rubio: Well, I think I get along personally with everyone, even people that call me a loser... [laughter]
Some of you got it. No, go read the papers.
That's a great question. You know, many of the ideas I've cited to you today I've actually found bipartisanship on. Chris Coons is someone from Connecticut who I've worked with — sorry, of — where's Chris Coons from? Delaware, I almost forgot.
No, Delaware — is someone that I've worked with on many of these ideas I've talked about. Ron Wyden that I've worked with on right to know before you go. I think there are people that we can work with on some ideas.
There's a fundamental difference between our parties. The Democratic Party is largely under the control of a radical, left-wing view of government's role in our lives and in our country. And I think you see evidence of that in their fiscal policy.
And they're also unfortunately under the control of a radical left-wing view that America is the cause of harm in the world. And you see that reflected in their foreign policy, the idea that somehow because America is engaged on the planet we're creating problems for ourselves as opposed to the reality that in the absence of American leadership it leads to a vacuum which leads to chaos.
It is true that in our republic we will have to work with people who we disagree with on certain other issues. And I hope that we can move forward. Because at the end of the day, if America declines it will decline for all of us, Republicans and Democrats alike, independents and everyone in between. We are all in this together in the sense that our nation's destiny, we're inextricably linked in that regard.
But there are fundamental differences between our parties and that's why we have elections.
Unknown Speaker: [off-mike] [inaudible] in the back.
Q: Senator Rubio, Juan Pablo Andrade. Great to see you again.
Rubio: Good to see you.
Q: I've been asking candidates today about Common Core because Common Core is a big issue that's important to me. I wanted to know your stance on Common Core. And if you were president right now, what would you do?
Rubio: Well, Common Core is a set of standards set at the national level, but it's going to eventually be used by the Department of Education. I don't care what anybody tells you, those standards will eventually be used to force on states policies the federal government wants or you won't get federal money. And that's not the right approach. I believe in curriculum reform. I want us to constantly improve our curriculum and I want it done at our local school boards and at our state legislatures. [applause]
Q: Hi, Senator Rubio. My name is John Mott, I'm a local businessman here in New Hampshire and in Virginia. My concern is...
Rubio: Where do you vote, John?
Q: In New Hampshire. [laughter]
Rubio: OK, good! I just need to know where to go find you, that's all.
Q: Registered in New Hampshire. My concern is how much the National Labor Relations Board is out of control with their other regulations they're putting on businesses. And lately, the last one, which came into effect yesterday, the one on the unions, on the time limit, the ambush law, and also...
Rubio: Ambush elections.
Q: The election, yeah, ambush election law, and also the one with the McDonald's trying to make, you know, joint employers with the franchisees. I'm concerned that what they're doing is going to change the face of business in this country. And I would like to know, as president, how would you get that group under control and what would you do with all these new regulations that have come forward?
Rubio: Well, actually, presidential leadership is quite important throughout the federal bureaucracy because at the end of the day all those agencies are under the domain of the executive branch. And the tone is set at the executive branch.
And let there be no doubt, President Obama supports those policies and that's why they're happening. So presidential leadership can have a big role in the direction that these agencies play.
It reminds us, by the way, that an increasing amount of power in the American federal government today is held in the hands of unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats. And one of the reasons is because of the vast growth of regulations.
You know, members of Congress oftentimes think that we're the lawmakers, but in reality most of the laws that are being passed in Washington are nothing but authorization for regulators to write more rules.
There are multiple different ways to bring regulations under control. The one I've proposed and that I've spent some time working on is called the regulatory budget. And what it would say is that no matter what you do we would set every single year a limit, Congress would, every single year a limit on how much regulations can cost the American economy. And agencies would have to get under that number every year by reducing regulations.
It will force them undertake a cost-benefit analysis, and that's something that's not happening right now. And if they want to add a new regulation, they're going to have to get rid of an old one if they want to put it in place.
But most of all, what it would do is it would massively regulate the regulatory space. It would bring them well-under the regulatory impediments that it now places on our economy and on the growth of our economy.
Beyond it, I would argue that what you've pointed to is not simply an annoyance, it makes us uncompetitive. Countries look at them. Companies and investors and people that are trying to start to create jobs look at these things as the conditions of doing business in the nation. And it is not attractive for our country in an era of global competition to have a place where you have a National Labor Relations Board that is imposing upon businesses, particularly small businesses like a franchise owner, which is not owned by McDonald's, it's owned by an individual that happens to own that store, requirements that they have to meet, which make them uncompetitive in respect to the rest of the world.
So it's just one more example of how the regulatory state is making America uncompetitive in an era of global competition. [applause]
Q: Hi, Senator. Matthew Durkin from the College Republicans of Dartmouth College. You spoke a lot about the future in your speech, and I think entitlements are going to be a huge part of that in terms of our deficit. And I was wondering if you could speak a little bit about entitlement reform or how you plan to keep America prosperous in terms of the budget.
Rubio: Well, first of all, I, even during my Senate campaign, have campaigned on the issue of entitlement reform. I'm in a state where there's a lot of people on Social Security and Medicare. That includes my mother. And I would never do anything to harm my mother. I would never do anything that would be bad for her.
But I recognize two fundamental truths: Unless we regulate our entitlement programs, they will go bankrupt and then they will ultimately bankrupt our country.
The single-leading cause of our long-term debt is the fact that we have entitlement programs in America that are structured in a way that are not sustainable in the long term. The only solution is, if we want to reform these programs in a way that doesn't impact anyone like my mother, people currently in the program or about to retire, it will require my generation and your generation to accept that our Social Security and our Medicare is still going to be the best thing in the world, but it's going to look different than our parents' Social Security and Medicare looked like.
And we've proposed very specific ideas for how to make that come about. We did so even when I ran for the Senate in Florida. And I remember when I did, when I talked about the fact that we will need to allow the retirement age to continue to go up for younger Americans like myself, that many of the pundits predicted, well, that's the end of his campaign in Florida. And it wasn't true.
People know that this is true. The math is unmistakable. When Social Security was founded, we had about 16 workers for every retiree. Today we have three for every retiree and soon it'll be two for every retiree. The program is unsustainable.
And here's the bottom line: We either reform it or they will go bankrupt and they will bankrupt our country. We want to save those programs. But to save them, you want to change them. Here's the bottom line: Anyone who comes to you and says we want to leave those programs exactly the way they are is in favor of bankrupting those programs. So that's what — we do need to confront that issue. And the sooner we confront it, the less disruptive these changes are going to be.
Q: When my grandparents moved here from Quebec they could only speak French. And when my father and his siblings went to school they had no choice but to learn English. They didn't have any special teachers. They went to the classrooms and as they learned the regular subjects they were forced to learn English.
When my daughter applied for a teaching job in Florida two years ago, she was told she wasn't qualified because she didn't have a certificate in English as a second language. And she said, mom, isn't English the language in this country?
And I think there's a real problem because we're trying to — we spend extra money in making sure that every child is comfortable in their native language before they're taught English. And I want to know if there's something that can be done about it. I don't think people are coming here and learning English.
You walk into a Lowe's store and the signs are in English and they're in Spanish. Almost anyplace you make a phone call, you know, hit 1 for English, hit 2 for Spanish.
It seems like this country needs to do something about this. We're an English-speaking country, but yet the people here are not forced to learn English.
Rubio: Well, here's the bottom line: If you don't speak English, you're not going to prosper economically in America. I mean, it is the language that's spoken in the country. While it's not legally the — I mean, there's not a law that says it's the official language, it is the official language of the United States and it should be. It's the unifying language of our people.
And anyone who doesn't teach their children English and anyone who doesn't learn English is going to have limited horizons economically in our country. I don't know the circumstances that your daughter faced when she was being hired, but the truth of the matter is that anyone who comes to this country, immigrates here and doesn't learn English, the younger they are especially true, the more disadvantaged they're going to be and he less they're going to be able to contribute economically. It's...
Q: [off-mike] [applause]
Rubio: Yeah. I think that English speakers of other languages in Florida, I don't know what it means in other parts of the country, are basically children that come to the U.S. and they only speak Creole because they're from Haiti. They have to learn English to graduate. The tests are administered in English. But obviously because they are learning English, they're in separate class from the mainstream student until they're proficient enough in English to take their full course in English.
But they are streamlined into the system where, you know, you have to speak English to graduate high school. You cannot graduate if you don't speak English. You can't pass the exam.
So many of those ESOL classes, E-S-O-L, are designed for students whose native first language is another language, but eventually, within three years, they're supposed to be mainstreamed into regular classes just like everyone else. That's how the system is designed. I'm not, like I said, I'm not familiar with the exact district she applied to or what job she applied for. But that's what is supposed to happen.
Q: Senator Rubio, I think you've been very clear about this and I totally affirm your position that the number-one position of the chief executive and the government is national security. Estimates are that Iran will have the bomb within months, no matter what happens. We obviously have this — you know what I'm talking about — the silliness in Washington as far as what the president is doing.
This is going to destabilize the entire international scene. And I think most Americans have no clue that this is coming as quickly as it's coming and what kind of impact it's going to have.
I'd love to hear your views on, if you were in the White House, how do you deal with this? We have a president who basically is, well, they're going to get it, what do we do, you know? I think you probably have a different perspective on that. Rubio: I do. Let me do two things. First, I'm going to tell you, let me just describe the nature of the problem more in-depth and then I'll tell you what we need to do about it at this point, even though we've lost a lot of leverage because of what this president has already done.
First of all, the risk of Iran is not limited to just nuclear weapons. This is not even being discussed in these negotiations with Iran. First of all, Iran is the premier sponsor of terrorism on the planet. They have multiple groups around the world that they sponsor to carry out terrorist attacks as a form of statecraft. I mean, they use terrorism the way normal nations use diplomacy. And that's literally what they do, and that isn't even being discussed and that's going on unabated.
Second, a nuclear capability isn't just limited to a bomb. You have to have a delivery system. Iran is developing long-range rockets that will, at some point, in less than a decade, be capable of reaching the East Coast of the United States. Those are not part of the talks.
A weapon design they can buy, if they haven't bought it already.
The third thing that it takes is the ability to enrich uranium or reprocess plutonium. And even under the most generous reading of the deal the president is trying to sell us, they retain the infrastructure to enrich and reprocess. And what we're trusting is that if we want to inspect them they will let us.
Well, we've seen this movie before. It was called Iraq. We would say, listen, we want to go in and inspect, Saddam Hussein; no, you can't. And then 90 days later they finally let you in, they had cleaned up the site. You went back 90 days later, he'd do the same game again.
We've seen this movie before, it's called North Korea.
There is no doubt that Iran wants to acquire a nuclear weapon. Now, they are willing to put on a charade in the short term because they want these sanctions lifted, they want more access to the money. But in the long term, they will want a weapon because it furthers their ultimate ambition and that is to be a regional hegemonic power. They want to be the single-most-powerful country in that area of the world, they want to drive America out of that region, they want the whole region to be under their domain. And they're already acting on that ambition.
Today you find Iranian influence in Lebanon, in Syria, increasingly in Iraq. You find it in Yemen now. You find it in Bahrain. This is the truth about what their ambitions are all about. A nuclear weapon is just a part of it, the most dangerous part of it.
Our president should have never entered into these negotiations. [applause] The international sanctions in combination with U.S. unilateral sanctions were having a devastating impact on Iran. And the choice for them was very clear: You can either have nuclear ambitions or you can have an economy, but you cannot have both. And it was having a real strain on them. It was threatening the regime's stability. And that's why they finally decided to come to the table.
But they knew as soon as they sat down for the first time that this president wanted the deal worse than they did, that John Kerry wanted this deal worse than they did.
And now what they've been able to do is basically disrupt the entire international sanctions regime. In fact, China and Russia already all in. The Russians have already sold them antiaircraft weapons. The Chinese are already saying they're going to build reactors in there. And now all we're left with the opportunity to impose unilateral sanctions, but putting together those international sanctions is going to be very difficult.
And here's the last hard truth. We may have to decide at some point what is worse, a military strike against Iran or a nuclear-armed Iran?
And I will just say this. I am not cheerleading for war. I don't want there to be the need to use military force. But a nuclear Iran is an unacceptable risk for the region and the world. [applause]
Unknown Speaker: [off-mike] [inaudible] last question of the evening.
Q: Thank you for coming this evening.
Rubio: Thank you.
Q: I was really interested to hear what you have to day. I wanted your viewpoint speaking about our security. There are terrorists coming across our borders every day as well as lots of other people who want opportunity and to work in America. But there's a lot of terrorism, too. So what is your viewpoint about closing our borders?
Rubio: Well, first we have to define what our borders are. Our borders isn't just the border with Mexico or Canada. Our borders are also our airports and seaports. In fact, over 40 percent of illegal immigrants entered the country legally and they overstayed a visa. So I believe, not just as a matter of immigration, but as a matter of national security, one of the most important things we need to do need to be done early in the next term of the next president is improve the way we enforce immigration laws. That involves border security, particularly with the one portion of the southern border that remains largely insecure.
But that also includes an E-Verify system that's cost-effective, that employers can use to verify that people they're hiring are legally here. And it requires an entry/exit system to ensure that we know who the people are that have overstayed visas. Today we don't know. We're like the hotel that checks you in, but never checks you out. [laughter]
We have no idea if you overstay a visa, in many instances, whether you overstayed or not. That's a big problem.
Let me add in the realm of terrorism one other point, which we really haven't confronted until very lately. We used to be concerned, and we still should be, about someone from abroad coming to America and carrying out a terrorist attack and the threat is still there.
Then we were concerned about someone in this country going abroad and being radicalized and coming back. And that threat is still there.
And now we face the threat of someone who is in this country, has never left this country, and yet is radicalized online and, as a result, is inspired to carry out a terrorist attack.
All three of these risks exist and they're real. And you can listen to all the hyperbole out there about how they're listening to your phone calls and all this other thing. But I'm telling you, if, God forbid, that happens here, the first question people are going to want to know is, why didn't we know about it and why didn't we stop it?
This is not a game.
Now, I sit on the Intelligence Committee of the United States Senate. I've done so for four-and-a-half years. I have no reason to exaggerate to you what I'm about to say. The risks this country faces today are greater than they were the day I took office. They increase exponentially with each one of these disclosures that are being made. Every time a traitor discloses American secrets to the world, our enemies find ways to evade our intelligence and we are going to pay a terrible price once day because there are thousands of people around this world and even as I speak to you now are plotting to kill Americans here and abroad.
This risk is real. It is not hyperbole. And it needs to be confronted. The spread of radical jihad has spread everywhere from online to North Africa and in multiple nations in the Middle East and around the world. And it only has continued to grow under the watch of this president and his administration.
We need to deal with it because you can't have prosperity if you're constantly under the risk of a terrorist attack. [applause]
Thank you very much. Thank you for having me.
Marco Rubio, Remarks at the First in the Nation Republican Leadership Summit in Nashua, New Hampshire Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/310261