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updated 1/29/2013 8:20:43 PM ET 2013-01-30T01:20:43

Do immigrants expect to work hard in order to build their own lives and take care of their families here in the U.S.? Texas Democratic Rep. Joaquin Castro said yes.

Rush Limbaugh thinks immigrants are moochers. While interviewing Republican Florida Sen. Marco Rubio on Tuesday, the conservative shock jock questioned the immigration reforms the bipartisan group of eight senators—including Rubio—are pushing for.

He pointed to “scholarly research” he had seen showing immigrants no longer come the U.S. to achieve the American dream, but because they believe “government is the source of prosperity.”

“It’s not about conservative principles and so forth, not the way it used to be. Are the Republicans stuck in the past in misjudging why the country is attractive to immigrants today?” asked Limbaugh.

“Limited government is always harder to sell than a government program,” Rubio said, but he felt he could deliver the message to Hispanics.  “It’s easier to sell cotton candy than it is to sell broccoli to somebody, but the broccoli is better for you, and the same thing with a limited government,” he said.

The Florida lawmaker added that the immigrants he’s worked with, who eventually started their own businesses in the U.S., eventually “understand the cost of big government.”

Texas Democratic Rep. Joaquin Castro appeared on Tuesday’s Hardball and dismissed Limbaugh’s argument.

“These folks, who come over here–90-something percent of them come with best of intentions. They want to work, support their  families. And quite frankly…These are people who are desperate people, oftentimes whose kids are starving,  don’t have much to eat. They’re not able to make a living in Mexico or another country where they’re from and so they come to the United States in the same spirit that the Irish, Germans and Italians came–and that is for opportunity. And it’s not to get rich. It’s an opportunity just to survive,” said Castro, who’s seen by many as a future Senate candidate.

Castro said he was optimistic that an immigration bill–which Obama pushed for–would pass the Republican-led House. “With the American election, I believe the American people made it clear, I believe that they want the Congress and they want the president to finally tackle this issue and finally get it done,” he said.

NBC’s News’ chief White House correspondent Chuck Todd told Chris Matthews that he also thought  legislation would pass. “Politically there is a tone in immigration debate, the fact that you have business that needs this—whether it’s agriculture or high-tech, the business community is demanding Washington to do something about this. And then you have the politics simply of the Hispanic vote,” said Todd. He noted the GOP likes to point out that the number one issue among Hispanics is not immigration. But Todd argued that it is still crucial and likened it to women voters and contraception. “The number one issue for suburban working women isn’t contraception, but if you’re saying weird things like ‘legitimate rape’ then that voting bloc isn’t going to listen to you” on other big issues.

Video: Obama to Congress on immigration bill: ‘Now is the time’

  1. Closed captioning of: Obama to Congress on immigration bill: ‘Now is the time’

    >>> the reckoning. let's play "hardball."

    >>> good evening. i'm chris matthews in washington . let me start with this, the reckoning. put up or shut up, d day . president obama through down the gauntlet. he demanded congress pass a potent immigration reform bill, one that fiks the problem of decades, deals with the 12 million people here illegally, stops the illegal hiring and exploitation of worgers. so the challenge is out there right now right there in tonight's news packed and ready for tomorrow's newspapers. will it explode into action, light a firecracker under the republicans? will it detonate an avalanche of action driving teeth into the reform, ending the perennial talk that's led to nothing or to the old bogus reforms of the past. will the politicians get real or play more games of ethnic fear, economic exploitation and wedge politics ? was today the end of all that? that could be possible? let's take a hard look with chuck todd . you heard all my questions. i'm holder than you, i have been through simpson mazoly. we were --

    >> i love it's getting a come back.

    >> we've passed bills that said it's got teeth and it's got amnesty for people who have been here to while. is this going to work politically and substantively?

    >> politically i think it's definitely going to work. politically there's the tune of the immigration debate , the fact you have business that needs this, whether it's agricultural, whether it's high-tech. business community is demanding at washington to do something about this and then you have the politics srm of the hispanic vote, so politically this is going to happen. i kind of dush.

    >> republican control the house. what do they get out of it?

    >> stop having the hispanic issue as a wedge. to actually begin to have a conversation when the new generation of --

    >> like george w. tried to do.

    >> republicans make the point, the number one issue with hispanics is not immigration. they're right. but they're not listening to you. if you're saying weird things like legitimate rape then that voting bloc isn't going to listen to you on education, on taxes, on any of this stuff. that's what's going on.

    >> so that's the issue.

    >> of what do democrats get out of it? why are they pushing it?

    >> hispanics have been demanding something on this, and at some point --

    >> but do they want the teeth, the tough requirements of worker verification? do they want the tough part of the bill?

    >> i think -- yes, because if you actually go to places like arizona and new mexico and i have seen surveys of hispanic americans , hispanic american citizens who say second, third, fourth generation, saying i did it legally. these folks should have to do it legally.

    >> i just don't hear that from the latino groups.

    >> no, they --

    >> i don't hear the interest groups pushing for real teeth. let's take a look --

    >> the interest groups rnt. i'm talking about rank and file hispanic americans .

    >> that's positive. let's look at what he had to say. he came out for what he calls comprehensive immigration reform . it was at a speech in las vegas . he said the bipartisan plan put forward by eight senators was in line with the principles he's for which is very interesting. bipartisan approach. let's listen. here he is.

    >> but the principles are pretty straightforward. first, i believe we need to stay focused on enforcement. that means continuing to strengthen security at our borders. it means cracking down more forcefully on businesses that knowingly hire undocumented workers . we need to implement a national system that allows businesses to quickly and accurately verify someone's employment status. second, we have to deal with the 11 million individuals who are here illegally. we all agree that these men and women should have to earn their way to citizenship. but for comprehensive immigration reform to work, it must be clear from the outset that there is a pathway to citizenship.

    >> okay. your strength is in politics. went to a largely hispanic high school in las vegas --

    >> you wouldn't know thap.

    >> they aemployeded all the positives.

    >> they didn't applause any of the enforcement stuff. you're pointing out the flags.

    >> i think visually what's amazing, politics is a visual game sometimes, and what message is someone trying to say if you turn the sound down? i guess the president is patriotic, he's sitting in front of american flags . beyond that --

    >> would have been better if we could have seen the young hispanic high school kids?

    >> i think it would be. this is about a younger generation of hispanics who, why are they coming to america ? they're coming to america for all of the right reasons that we want america to be, the shining city on the hill, particularly --

    >> let's talk about the key guy here. besides the president who is always the key guy. here is marco rubio . i think he may have split ambitions. if he does it right with the eight senators, four democrats, four republicans and they coalesce with the president, the president will get credit. he may be willing to share the headline here. here he is. he spoke to rush limbaugh today. this is marco rubio of florida. here he is.

    >> i know this is a tough issue. i do. i know why people are uncomfortable about it. it doesn't feel right to in some instances to, you know, allow people who have come here undocumented to be able to stay. i know for some people they're uncomfortable with this notion. this is a tough issue to work through. i think this is a significant challenge we face. i know the president is going to take us in a direction i would not be comfortable with and i don't think it's good for america . i'm trying to do the whes i can with what's already a toughspation.

    >> he's probably the only guest on the show to say undoumented workers rather than aliens. listen to how limbaugh looked at it.

    >> i have seen a number of research, scholarly research data, which says that vast majority of arriving immigrants today come here because they believe that government is the source of prosperity, and that's what they support. it's not about conservative principles and so fort. not the way it used to be.

    >> look, i don't know. i don't have -- i haven't done a scholarly study on the makeup. i can only tell you about the people i interact with and i can tell you that the folks i interact with, once they get into this country and they start to work and they open up their own business, they start to understand the cost of big government .

    >> there's such a thing in politics and public affairs and commentary that's a lie. and what he just said was a lie. if you look at any road gang in america out there working on the roads, hispanics , if you go to the guys doing housing, roofing, guys doing lawns, guys doing craftsman work all over the buschs and the country, beverly hills , chevy chase , they're all spanish speaking and the idea they all came here for welfare checks.

    >> they come here to earn money. to send it back. to take that money and they're sending say half of it -- they live on what they have to, and they're sending it back to try to support family --

    >> i don't think hispanics are big on government anyway. i think they're trying to get away from lousy governments most of them.

    >> every immigrant, and i have studied this, and you have too, over 200 years in this country, it's been the same thing. during garfield's election, i love to bring this up, during james garfield 's election, the state of california almost, you know, was teetering on the edge over the issue of illegal chinese immigration . we go through this as a society. we have these issues, but every imgraget population that's come to the united states has come here for the same reason, looking for work. that's all.

    >> the chinese were the most crime-free community in history. they don't cause anybody any trouble. thank you, chuck todd . let's turn to somebody who knows he's a member of congress from that part of the country right down near the warder, joaquin castro , democrat from texas. this is "hardball" and we're talking about whether they will get a bill that passes both houses, the one controlled by the senate and one by the house. do you think the majority led by people like, well, john boehner and cantor are actually going to put their fingers on an immigration bill and pass it?

    >> i think they will, chris, and i hope they will. i think especially with the november election, the american penal made it clear i believe that they want the congress and they want the president to tackle this issue and to finally get it done. i think what we've seen in the last few days is very promising first with the senate proposal and now the president's proposal. at least we know we're having a serious discussion about it and we're more or less on the same field.

    >> i have always liked schumer politically and rubio, the fact he's with them, lindsey graham , i respect them all. are you surprised that rubio, who is obviously gunning for the presidency, has been able to make a deal with someone like chuck shunler of new york who is a liberal? is this something that can be done across the country, liberal/conservative compromise with teeth and also with something for people who have been here a long time and want to become american?

    >> there's no question. it's a wonderful turn of events, especially because of all the stalemates on a number of issues we've had in washington over the last few years. and so i was a bit surprised to see all eight of them standing up there at the podium locked in arms, coming out with this bipartisan proposal. so i think it bodes well for the issue.

    >> do you think we're going to get to the point if this thing is in effect or something like it where we won't be embarrassed by people racing across the border down the arizona line, texas line, people racing for their life to get jobs. i know their mope tiffs are good but the idea of a country where you race across lines and fences and you have to come in illegally s this ever going to turn down. will we have people become guest workers or applicants or long-term stays here where it's actually done like a modern society ought to operate?

    >> i hope that we can get to that point. you know, as you and chuck were talking about, these folks who come over, 90-something percent of them come with the best of intentions. they want to work and support their families and, quite frankly, chris, these are folks that are desperate people often times whose kids are starving, don't have much to eat. they're not able to make a living in mexico or another country where they're fromer from, so they come to the united states in the same spirit that the eyish and the germans and the italians came and that is for opportunity. and it's not to get rich. it's an opportunity just to survive.

    >> let me ask you about guest workers . it's always been a tricky thing because in the old days of nixon, it had a negative connotation. is part of the answer temporary workers that come up here for the season, they may work in agricultural, make a bundle of money by their standards, head back with it to their families, that way you don't combine working with immigration in every situation. are you happy with that or does that seem discriminatory to you? how do you react to it?

    >> well i think, and you see in both proposals this path to citizenship, i think that path to citizenship should be available for undocumented immigrants . there should be an option i think or there could be an option for them to have temporary worker status if they're choosing not to become residents or citizens, but, you know, when you think about the dreamers and other folks who are not, you know, kids who are dreamers but maybe have been here 10 or 15 years and paid taxes and essentially have lived out many years as americans, we should give them a path to citizenship.

    >> you know, the hardest thing about this is trust. the conservatives and you know it better than i do, you represent people down there in that part of a country where it's a touchy issue, a lot of conservatives will say i want enforcement first and then we'll talk about amnesty or whatever we're going to call it. wait a minute, if you do that, if you seal up the border right now and, which is maybe not the most important thick, you insist on e verify working, you can't work unless you're here legally, what happens to the 12 million people in the meantime? they can't work? in other words, it's the chicken and egg problem . how do you get to a better world in this country step by step had in a way that conservatives will go along with, middle of the roaders, and liberals who really want to see something done in terms of helping the people here. how do you stop the i will lelg action in the meantime? tell me what you think about the sequence. i think it's going to be a hot part of this issue, what comes first.

    >> sure. and i think you're right. the argument that you have had mostly from folks on the right is, look, we can't create any guest worker program or a path to citizenship until we secure the border and that argument has a lot of resonance but we have got to consider the moment that we're in. it's a fact that this president has committed more resources to the border than any president in american history . in 2004 when president bush was re-elected, there were 10,000 border patrol agents on the border . today there are more than 21,000. there are 652 miles of border barriers, including fencing, along the border . so this president has committed not only money but also manpower to securing the border . if we're going to hold this thing up, a path to citizenship until we secure the border , then we've got to have objective measures about what that means because i promise you if you put rick perry and jan brewer on that southwestern commission to determine when the border has been secured, they're never going to approve it because it's not in their political interest to approve it. so we've got to be very careful if we operate in phases.

    >> be interesting how we do this. i hope it works. we tried it before with simpson ms. zola. i think we all agree on the elements. it's putting this thing together that will matter. it's great to have you on, by the way, congressman, joaquin castro . your brother is great, too. he gave a great speech at the convention. come.

    >>> coming up, civil war in the republican party . one side says only a moderate sensible gop will be able to compete. on the other side are wingers like glenn beck .

    >>> plus, who is behind the strange alliance of neocons and gays trying to kill chuck hagel 's nomination for defense secretary ? we're going to get into that one. that's a favorite of mine. among those opposing hagel, a shadowy group who says it's pro-gay but buys its ad through a top republican firm.

    >>> and "argo," lincoln, the good wife, veep, that he is no denying it, movies and shows about politics are suddenly hot. the great kevin spacey sits in this chair in a few minutes. he's got a new political show called " house of cards ." it reminds me of what might have happened if john kerry had not been maet secretary of state.

    >>> let me finish with kerry's confirmation. it happened just an hour ago as secretary of state and thursday's hearing for chuck hagel as secretary of defense. i support both of them. this is "hardball," the

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