Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, a top pick on many short lists of potential vice presidential nominees, has been talking about his vision of the GOP as a “pro-legal immigration party” -- but he has yet to offer any legislation.
When pushed by Fox’s Juan Williams on why he hasn’t introduced a bill – Rubio’s Dream Act is still in the drafting stages – he responded that he is working out the details and that he has “only been [in the Senate] 12 months.” Speaking on Fox News Latino, Rubio laid out his plan for a policy based not on granting illegal immigrants a path to citizenship but on reforming the visa program and improving border and job security.
“We need to recognize that our legal immigration system is broken and that the broken legal immigration system is contributing to illegal immigration,” he said, later adding that “we’re headed in the right direction” on border security.
Rubio recently announced his work with fellow senators on an alternate Dream Act that, in contrast to the version that failed in the Senate in 2010, would allow illegal immigrants who served in the military to stay in the U.S. but would not provide them with a route to citizenship.
To Rubio, inaction on immigration isn’t the Republicans' fault – it’s the result of Democratic stonewalling in hopes of making immigration a political issue in November. “This is a very powerful issue.... In fact, there are those that maybe don’t want to solve this, but would like to leave it there so they can use it in the elections,” he said, adding when asked that he was referring to Democrats.
Democrats, however, have been dismissive of Rubio's plans. In a Miami Herald op-ed column published Sunday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., criticized the Republican response to the DREAM Act. Without mentioning Rubio by name, Reid wrote, "Alarmed Republicans are papering over their party’s lurch to the right with opportunistic half-measures that don’t solve the crisis faced by young people."
The immigration issue is slowly creeping onto the campaign trail. Following Rubio’s endorsement of Mitt Romney last week, Democrats attempted to hit both of them on their immigration stances, and a Fox News poll taken at the beginning of March gives President Obama a lead of 56 percentage points over Romney among Hispanic voters.
Rubio said that he believes the Republican Party is well-suited to Hispanic voters on the merits of its economic policies but that the immigration issue often takes the focus away from the economy. "It's hard to make an economic argument to people who think you want to deport their grandma," he acknowledged.