Miami, Florida (CNN) – Florida Senate candidate Marco Rubio, an influential Hispanic voice in the Republican Party, warned Tuesday that Arizona's tough new immigration law could have "unintended consequences," but said the legislation is the product of a "law enforcement crisis" going on in the state.
The law, enacted last week by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, requires police to question people suspected of being in the country illegally. Critics of the law argue that it will lead to racial profiling of Hispanics and civil rights violations.
Rubio discussed the bill for the first time after a campaign event in West Miami, where he signed official papers to run as a Republican.
"That's not really something Americans are comfortable with, the notion of a police state," Rubio said of the Arizona bill. "But I don't want to underestimate the level of frustration from a law enforcement aspect that exists in Arizona. You have serious violence crossing the border, and they're fed up. Particularly with federal inaction."
He did not say outright whether he opposes or supports the bill.
But Rubio said that "over time people will grow uncomfortable" with the idea of police officers stopping an individual based simply on a suspicion that he or she is in the country illegally. The Arizona measure, he said, is one reason he believes immigration "needs to be a federal issue and not a state one."
"My hope that this will be a wake up call for the federal government to take the illegal immigration problem in America seriously," he said, noting that border security and modernization of the visa system should be the two main priorities of immigration reform.
As for the ongoing saga surrounding the future of his Republican primary rival, Gov. Charlie Crist, Rubio maintained that he is focused on his own campaign and would not comment on mounting speculation that Crist may continue his Senate bid as an independent.
Rubio, an outspoken conservative on fiscal matters, pledged not to moderate his message in the general election in an appeal to centrist Florida voters.
"I think my positions are mainstream American positions that talk about limited government, the free enterprise system, how the world is in a better place when America is the strongest country on the world," he said. "Who I am and why I am running is not going to change based on a political calculus. I believe that my message will get me elected to the U.S. Senate."