Rubio: Obama sees immigration as a 'political' matter
January 30th, 2013
04:48 PM ET
8 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."

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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. The Elephant in the Room

    Memo to Rubio/Boehner/Ryan/McConnell :

    We, the American People, DO NOT Hate the President like you seem to think we do. Therefore your never ending attempts to couch every issue personally against Mr. Obama have grown tired & stale. You turn us off before you even start making your point.

    RUBIO, you are perpetrating a fraud. There is little to no difference between what the President has been saying on immigration [ BEFORE you were even running for the Senate] and what the "bi-partisan" Group of six is advocating.

    January 30, 2013 06:35 pm at 6:35 pm |
  2. Mark Anderson

    Thank God, nothing that Marco does is political.

    January 30, 2013 06:35 pm at 6:35 pm |
  3. Jane

    Union City, NJ is the #2 largest Cuban community in the USA and Rubio has been a joke and a sell-out since he went cheerleading for alexithymic Mitt.

    January 30, 2013 06:41 pm at 6:41 pm |
  4. the REAL Truth...

    If the shoe fits!
    The only logical reason for the Grand Obstructionist Party to suddenly front the anchor-bay Rubio as being for [the same] immigration reform that is in the Dream Act is that they still believe there are enough stupid people in the red states to believe it. Come to think of it, there's still 45+% of the country who were dumb enough to vote for Mittens that will buy into this.

    January 30, 2013 06:59 pm at 6:59 pm |
  5. Jim Hahn

    Senator Rubio speaks the truth. It is totally political and the Republicans will suffer if they don't get on board. You can't win an election with just 10% of the Hispanic vote. Anyone want to trade red for blurple?

    January 30, 2013 07:10 pm at 7:10 pm |
  6. Larry L

    Republicans look at the polls and panic. NOW they suddenly believe Cesar Chavez is something other than a trouble-maker? Sure they do...

    Rubio the "Anchor-Baby Coconut" sees the Republican situation exactly like John McCain as a marketing rather than ideological problem. They will "embrace" the votes rather than the issues of Hispanic Americans.

    January 30, 2013 07:14 pm at 7:14 pm |
  7. Squigman

    Preach intolerance, bigotry, hate, and indifference till it starts costing you elections. Then do a 180 degree turn in an attempt to gain control of a situation. The hypocrisy is thick enough to walk on.

    January 30, 2013 07:29 pm at 7:29 pm |
  8. Len

    Mr. Rubio you are playing politics. You cannot have it both ways. You either work toward immigration reform or you play to the tea party right wing no compromise folks. Decide

    January 30, 2013 08:03 pm at 8:03 pm |
  9. Flagship, NC

    Rubio has no idea what it is to be a Latino. He is a white repub man with brown skin.

    January 30, 2013 08:07 pm at 8:07 pm |
  10. David

    Rubio is simply stating the same old repub talking points, I feel for them as they are stuck between a rock and a hard place – continue playing the same games and never have a chance in a national election or take a more common sense approach and risk losing their base. FYI, if you threw trillions at the border and it would still not be secure.

    January 30, 2013 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  11. He is a little upset

    Rubio is still alittle upset that Obama stole his thunder before the election and then actually made Rubio less appealing to Mitt as a running mate. Now, he brings up an immigration bill and in basically doing what Obama wanted, he makes a last futile attack on the president. Does he not realize that he might have gained more friends with future voters if he hadn't attacked someone he will never have to run against?

    January 30, 2013 09:09 pm at 9:09 pm |

    LMAO!!! I said it when Willard ran for POTUS; I'll say it now to Rubio. YOU WILL NEVER BE POTUS!!! You don't even know your journey is already OVER. Stop wasting other people's money.......

    January 30, 2013 09:29 pm at 9:29 pm |
  13. Ancient Texan

    Rubio and a Democrat co-sponser was working on a joint immigration reform bill before Obama used royal decree to install the "Dream Act" that the legislature had voted down three times. Rubio then let it simmer until the election was over, so it was not an attempt to entice voters, but real reform effort.

    January 30, 2013 09:31 pm at 9:31 pm |
  14. Evergreen

    The borders are more secure under this President. But I am sure the President won't mind if the GOP vote to increase funding for additional security.

    January 30, 2013 09:35 pm at 9:35 pm |
  15. sgurdog

    Rubio should rise above but he's not disciplined enough. Always has to throw a jab in there in order to feel Presidential. Just shut up and work on policy rookie.

    January 30, 2013 09:36 pm at 9:36 pm |

    Yeah. He would know. He's a politician himself. Duh. Boring. Wait, why is the country paying attention to this Koch brothers mouthpiece?

    January 30, 2013 09:54 pm at 9:54 pm |
  17. petena

    Rubio you are not going to be president in 2016. Hillary has it sewed up already. Hispanics don't stick together like blacks. Mexicans don't mix with Cubans or Puerto Ricans or South Americans, etc. Each group sees themselves as independednt. You lost buddy.

    January 30, 2013 10:03 pm at 10:03 pm |
  18. Gonzoinhouston

    The only purely political aspect of the issue is the path to citizenship. Both parties see 10 million currently illegal immigrants as 10 million potential Democrats. We're it not for this we could have settled the issue 20 years ago.

    January 30, 2013 10:06 pm at 10:06 pm |
  19. Capone

    Political, huh?

    Question: How many immigration reform bills as Sen. Rubio either sponsored or introduced before now?

    Thanks for playing.

    January 30, 2013 10:17 pm at 10:17 pm |
  20. Thomas

    Obama sees immigration as a 'political' matter

    Thats so funny coming from a politician who's whole like revolves around the ego of politics .
    Teaparty , cuban , obstructionist 2016 .

    January 30, 2013 10:32 pm at 10:32 pm |
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