Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) addresses the audience at the 29th annual National… (Edward Linsmier / Getty…)
WASHINGTON – Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, the rising GOP star who is trying to push his party toward the middle on immigration, demonstrated the hard truth about the middle ground. It’s uncomfortable.
In an interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday, Rubio sought to convey the need for compromise on the hot-button issue, but in the end fell short of asserting a clear position.
Asked about the Arizona law that allows local officials to check citizenship status, Rubio seemed sympathetic to the plight of a state dealing with a border security issues. But he also said the federal government should take the “blame” for such laws.
The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule on the constitutionality of the law this week. Rubio said he believed the law should be upheld.
“What I’ve said repeatedly is I believe Arizona has a right to pass that bill. I understand why they did it. But I don’t think it’s a national model. I don’t think other states should follow suit,” Rubio, the son of Cuban immigrants, said. “For example, I don’t want to see a law like that in Florida.”
Rubio is seen as a potential leader on immigration issues by Republicans who want the party to do more to appeal to Latino voters. He has been talked about as a possible running mate for Mitt Romney, but he declined to discuss his interest in the vice presidential slot Sunday.
Asked about the crux of the immigration dilemma – what to do with the millions of immigrants already in the country. Rubio repeatedly declined to say whether he thought Congress should create a way for those immigrants to become citizens without going home first.
The Florida freshman argued that lawmakers first needed to tighten security and enforcement of current law to win back the confidence of Americans in the immigration system. He argued that some accommodations should be made for “the kids” – young immigrants brought to this country as children.
But, Rubio quickly noted, he does not support the Dream Act, the law initially written by Republicans and Democrats to address those immigrants. And he also criticized President Obama’s decision to suspend deportation of some young immigrants.
Rubio has discussed an alternative to the Dream Act. His proposal was never written into legislation. It would probably have faced significant opposition in the Senate from within his own party. He described that effort as on hold until after the election.
Host David Gregory pressed Rubio on how he would settle the debate.
“That’s the complexity of this issue. Immigration is not a black or white issue. It’s not a yes or no issue,” Rubio said. “It’s complicated.”
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