Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), seen here at the Republican National Convention… (Chip Somodevilla / Getty…)
HENDERSON, Nev. — Campaigning for Mitt Romney in Nevada, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio called the GOP presidential nominee’s position on the so-called Dream Act kids “logical.”
In an interview published Tuesday, Romney told the Denver Post that he would honor visas granted to some young immigrants under an executive order announced by President Obama in June.
In August, the administration started the program to grant work permits and two-year deportation deferrals to illegal immigrants who came to the United States as children. Among other requirements, applicants must be under 31 and prove they came to the country before they were 16.
About 120,000 people have applied for the program, which requires an application fee of $465.
“They are folks that have already availed themselves of it, who have paid money to the federal government. I don’t know how you undo that,” Rubio said in an interview before speaking to a crowd at a Romney rally. “I don’t think it would be fair, after they’ve already paid and begun to live, to now yank that from underneath them.”
Rubio emphasized that the bigger question was what to do next. Obama’s executive order is due to expire, setting the clock for Congress to act.
Obama supported the Dream Act, legislation also aimed at illegal residents brought to the U.S. as children. The bill would provide a path for young illegal immigrants to reside in the country if they have maintained a clean record and have completed either college or military service. The Dream Act stalled in Congress, largely because of Republican opposition.
Rubio has floated a broad framework for his own version of the Dream Act, although the Florida freshman senator has not introduced it as a bill in the Senate, where it would not have been welcomed by some of his GOP colleagues in an election year. Romney said during the Republican primaries that he would veto the Dream Act.
“The most important thing Romney has said is that he wants to find a permanent solution to their problem,” he said. “In a blink of an eye, this two-year period will go by, and these kids don’t want to be here for two years; they want to be here for the rest of their lives. We have to find a solution to their problem that’s humanitarian, that solves their problem but that doesn’t encourage illegal immigration in the future.”
One of Rubio’s biggest challenges on that front was waiting for him at the rally. Much of the Republican base remains focused on tightening immigration laws, not making new exceptions.
“It’s a good political move but it’s not good for the country,” said Bob Thomas, a 71-year-old retired Marine who came to the rally. “There’s too much accommodation.”
Gloria Juarez, a 54-year-old Romney supporter from Henderson, said she worried those young people wouldn't be able to find jobs and would become a burden on the government. She thinks Obama is winning more Latino supporters because he panders to them.
“He’s singing the song they want to hear, but it’s the same song he sang four years ago,” she said.
She said Romney took his position “for the same reason Obama did it.”
Rubio said he saw Romney making inroads with Latino voters with the help of a small-government message that appeals to small-business owners and entrepreneurs, although he acknowledged “it’s an ongoing process.”
“That’s our message. I think we have to continue to do it consistently and effectively, but I think it’s a winning message, not just in November but I think for the long term as well,” he said.
Rubio brought a hard-hitting version of that message to the crowd gathered at a casino conference center in this suburb of Las Vegas. The child of Cuban immigrants suggested the president was following “ideas that have failed everywhere in the world that they have been tried,” he said.
“You want to know how I know those ideas have failed? You want to know why I know big government doesn’t work? Because people come here to this country to away from that stuff,” he said. “On the other hand, when was the last time you’ve read about a boat of American refugees landing on the shores of another country.”
Rubio was warmly received by a crowd estimated at about 500, including one man who interrupted him.
“Rubio 2020!” the man yelled, prompting the senator to blush and try to deflect with a joke. “No, I don’t have glasses today. I only have 20/40.”