Rubio: Obama sees immigration as a 'political' matter
January 30th, 2013
04:48 PM ET
5 years ago

Rubio: Obama sees immigration as a 'political' matter

(CNN) - While speaking in an interview with CNN en Español, Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida appeared to sharpen his rhetoric Tuesday against President Barack Obama in this week's immigration debate.

His remarks were made in a Spanish-language interview with CNN en Español's Anchor/Senior Correspondent Juan Carlos Lopez. Translated into English, the junior senator argued that if Obama "has decided to use this as an opportunity to move (immigration reform) to the left–let's say, to be more flexible–well then he is hurting this effort."

Rubio was referring to proposals laid out in the president's speech Tuesday in Las Vegas, which included three pillars: better enforcement of immigration laws, providing a path to citizenship for the more than 11 million undocumented immigrants already in the country, and reforming the legal immigration system.

Obama's speech came a day after a bipartisan group of eight senators, including Rubio, laid out a framework for immigration reform they hope to turn into legislation by March. One of the main premises in the plan drawn up by the so-called "Gang of Eight" is a need to bolster border security before other measures take place.

While Obama said in his remarks the group's work was "encouraging," he signaled disagreement over the state of the border, saying it was more secure than ever.

"We strengthened security at the borders so that we could finally stem the tide of illegal immigrants," the president said. "We put more boots on the ground on the southern border than at any time in our history. And today, illegal crossings are down nearly 80 percent from their peak in 2000."

In a statement released after the speech, Rubio criticized Obama for not mentioning a guest worker program and for leaving the impression "that he believes reforming immigration quickly is more important than reforming immigration right."

Speaking to CNN en Español before the speech, Rubio went further and argued the president was playing politics.

"For the president to come out the next day with his own principles that go against those principles, I believe it's counterproductive and it really shows that the he is more interested in the subject as a political matter that in it as one to be resolved," Rubio said, answering a question about the sticking point between the two plans of border security being tied to a path to citizenship.

During his speech, however, Obama said the senators' proposals were "very much in line" with his own principles.

"So at this moment, it looks like there's a genuine desire to get this done soon, and that's very encouraging. But this time, action must follow. We can't allow immigration reform to get bogged down in an endless debate," he said.

If Congress fails to pass legislation in a "timely fashion," he said, he will send up a bill based on his own proposal and "insist that they vote on it right away."

Rubio's tone in the CNN en Español interview seemed to be more critical than in some of his other interviews. In a radio interview with conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh, the strongest language came when Rubio said he thinks the "president is going to take us in a direction that I would not be comfortable with, and I don't think is good for America."

While some Republicans have explicitly pointed to the GOP's declining popularity among Latinos as a big reason for their new push on immigration reform, Rubio wrote he's not seeking reform "because of the last election or future elections."

"I’m doing what I can because I believe it’s important for our country, because conservative principles can make this legislation better, and immigration is one of the few issues where government has a legitimate and central role to play," he wrote Wednesday in on op-ed for the conservative website RedState.

The Florida senator, whose parents emigrated from Cuba, has worked this week to try to sell his immigration proposals to those on the far-right in his party. Republican Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana, however, wasn't buying it.

"I love and respect Marco. I think he's just amazingly naïve on this issue," Vitter told conservative radio host Laura Ingraham, arguing that the "Gang of Eight" blueprint is the "same old formula" as the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986. While the bill legalized close to the three million workers, it's largely considered a failure due to poor border security and enforcement provisions.

Rubio argues that in the senators' plan that tighter border security measures must be a prerequisite before other measures involving legalization go into effect. But Vitter said that's unrealistic.

"As soon as you give them a legal status, they are here legally forever and probably they're citizens pretty darn soon after," Vitter later added. "And if Marco thinks no matter what happens or doesn't happen on the enforcement side that's not going to happen, I just think he's nuts."

- CNN’s Steve Brusk contributed to this report.

Filed under: Immigration • Marco Rubio • President Obama
soundoff (45 Responses)
  1. Woman In California

    Rubio said he thinks the "president is going to take us in a direction that I would not be comfortable with, and I don't think is good for America."

    What's he worried about? He's an anchor baby. Protected by the government FOR LIFE.

    January 30, 2013 04:58 pm at 4:58 pm |
  2. yanni

    What is with these people now all of them are discussing intention not facts. This from the guy who invented his life story for political purpose. Why now? your party advocated and promoted self deportation as a solution until November 6, why now? I hate to assume but as McCain said it might be because you lost big in November? stop being a "Stupid Party" not my word.

    January 30, 2013 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  3. Sniffit

    Rubio is basically just trying to put the APPEARANCE of space between what Obama has proposed and demanded for the past 4 years and what Rubio is now pretending to be his own ideas. The GOP/Teatrolls are desperately doing everything they can to essentially co-opt Obama and the Dems long-standing ideas and proposals on immigration reform and pretend it was all their doing so they can try to usupr all the credit...on the theory that "it will fix all our problems with all them brown folks."

    Sorry, Teatrolls, 60+ years of throwing your feces at minorities doesn't go away overnight, even if you do get the MSM to go along with your politically-motivated "we get all the credit for saving immigration" fabrications.

    January 30, 2013 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
  4. Martha in CF

    I ask, why would the President see this as a political matter? Rubio is a phony to stand up with his other dems and repubs and go along with the immigration changes and then the next day brings politics into it. President Obama won the election-McCain stated one of the reasons for acting on the immigration reform is for the elections-how political is that!!!!!!!!!! You act as if the immigrants are stupid on what is going on here. Think again, Rubio. They are smarter than you think..................

    January 30, 2013 05:12 pm at 5:12 pm |
  5. Anonymous

    where did you get this idiot

    January 30, 2013 05:16 pm at 5:16 pm |
  6. Bill

    Rubio is an overweight blowhard who can not even get his own family history straight. If he is the GOP's best hope for 2016, then the dems. have nothing to worry about.

    January 30, 2013 05:18 pm at 5:18 pm |
  7. The NRA is a T e r r o r i st organisation....Arming Mentally Unbalanced People to Kill Innocent Children

    Marco Rubio's adopted daddy John McCain is the one who's going all over town bragging that this is ALL ABOUT VOTES & POLITICS for the Republican party!!!

    January 30, 2013 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  8. Ideas, Ideals, not ideologies

    Hold it here, Mister! Didn't the republicans start pushing immigration because they lost the election and they are trying to get Hispanics to like them. How's that not political?

    January 30, 2013 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  9. Randy, San Francisco

    Democrats have always held the high ground on the immigration issue. Recent admissions by Republicans leaders admit their flip flop on immigration reform is about losing Hispanic votes in 2012. Sen Rubio's tough talking will only continue the divide between minorities and the Republican Party.

    January 30, 2013 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  10. RINO Bill

    Wow, this guy is already becoming a master of spin, distortion and lying.

    Looks like the GOP is going to end up with the same-old same-old in '16.

    January 30, 2013 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  11. Dr Matrix

    Ironic that in Arizona (R) immigration is 100% political. It got Jan Brewer (R) elected for supporting Russel Pearce's (R) completly insane immigration bill. Don't forget America's Toughest Sheriff Joe Arpio (R) ignoring 70,000 felony warrants to use his resources to round up brown janitors in the middle of the night or grabbing the landscapers so that the grass is too long, while ignoring the Employer Sanction laws in place to try and prevent white (R) business owners from attracting and hiring immigrants. Rubio can suck it.

    January 30, 2013 05:31 pm at 5:31 pm |
  12. yasmine

    @ Yanni.. you are so right..

    and Rubio is a joke... keep spinning ... spin doctor..

    January 30, 2013 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  13. Tampa Tim

    Rubio is just a tea bagging anchor baby who is an embarrassment to the sane people of Florida.

    January 30, 2013 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  14. Facts don't Lie

    so I guess the GOP NEVER saw this matter as being politcal, huh? That is why after the last two elections of getting snubbed by Hispanics they have finally decided to act. Too bad Rubio thinks he can speak for the Latino community because most of the ones I know here in Texas, especially of Mexican decent think he is a joke. They have a word for him I won't even used here to describe him but it is a certain tropical fruit. Even on things he and the president may agree on, you watch and see he will not come out and say it. You know for a Tea Partier to agree with Obama on ANYTHING is a cardinal sin.

    January 30, 2013 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  15. Sniffit

    "Hold it here, Mister! Didn't the republicans start pushing immigration because they lost the election and they are trying to get Hispanics to like them. How's that not political?"

    Well duh...because they have their very own latino token as the front man pushing for it, so it couldn't possibly be political.

    Oh wait...

    January 30, 2013 05:36 pm at 5:36 pm |
  16. PaulCat

    Rubio, you need to listen to Bobby Jindal and

    stop sounding STUPID. Everytime a

    republican open their mouth, a lie comes


    January 30, 2013 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  17. realitybite

    hmm..let's see. The GOP was against any immigration reform before they got shellacked last year. Then they want to do something about immigration because they don't want to keep losing elections. How is that not a political intention?
    If the GOP really cares about immigration reform, they would have started working on this a long time ago, and not because they lost 71% of the Hispanic vote.

    January 30, 2013 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  18. Name VA865


    January 30, 2013 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  19. jane another repub who thinks the American people are stupid....McCain stated that the were taking up the immigration issue because of "VOTES" Rubio stop trying to make yourself a viable candidate for 2016....You will not be President-NOT NOW NOT EVER!!!!

    January 30, 2013 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  20. Virginia Reader

    Who is that Irishman, Marc O'Rubio? And why has he changed the tune he's whistled all these years?

    January 30, 2013 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  21. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    If you call trying to fulfill his campaign platform/promises political then so be it.
    He said he would bring about immigration reform and that's exactly what the President is attempting to do.
    Rubio needs to remember that the President is no longer running for any office, unlike him. President Obama has reached the pinnacle, the platinum ring that Rubio can only aspire in his dreams to attain. Not gonna happen.
    The foreign concept that Rubio is not wired to grasp is that what THIS President is doing is standing by his word.
    I stand with my President, and so does the Latino community. We appreciate his efforts.

    January 30, 2013 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  22. jinx88

    Well Rubio, sounds like so are you to your conservative base. So whats your point.

    January 30, 2013 06:04 pm at 6:04 pm |
  23. 1twinsfan

    Yes, the President is using immigration to get re-elected in 2016. LOL Seriously, maybe if the GOP didn't accuse nearly all Latinos of being illegal immigrants, including the 60% that were born here, then they might some inroads with them.

    January 30, 2013 06:11 pm at 6:11 pm |
  24. They ought to change from the elephant to the hippo...

    So Obama's just doing this for politics of it... Project much Marco?

    The problem is that if they become citizens undocumented Latinos won't continue to be content with cutting lettuce, changing hotel beds, and being nannies... They will be looking for something more, just like EVERY OTHER immigrant group before them.

    January 30, 2013 06:25 pm at 6:25 pm |
  25. me

    the american people ARE stupid, they elected obama yet again

    January 30, 2013 06:33 pm at 6:33 pm |
1 2