Republican Sen. Marco Rubio accused President Obama of
playing politics with immigration, but he also faulted hard-liners in his own
party for ignoring the "human issue" in the debate over people who are in the
Speaking Friday to the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials at Walt Disney World, Rubio said Obama's directive last week to halt deportations of the children of illegal immigrants was similar to a solution Rubio had been working on for months while being criticized from the left.
"Of course, a few months later the president takes a similar idea and implements it through executive action, and now it's the greatest idea in the world. I don't care who gets the credit. I don't. But it exposes the fact that this issue is all about politics for some people," Rubio said.
Rubio called immigration a complicated issue that has been hijacked by political considerations on the left and right.
"As long as this issue of illegal immigration is a political ping pong that each side uses to win elections and influence votes, I'm telling you it won't get solved. Because there are too many people who have concluded this issue unresolved is more powerful. They want it to stay unresolved," Rubio said.
Rubio stepped on his own message a few moments later.
"I was tempted to come here and rip open the policies of the administration," said Rubio, who spoke about two hours before Obama was slated to appear before the conference.
"I was tempted to come here and tell you 'Hey, he hasn't been here in three years. What a coincidence, it's an election year.' I was tempted to tell you 'Why didn't he make this issue a priority?' I just did tell you," Rubio acknowledged as some in the audience laughed.
"But that's not the direction I want to go in my speech because if I did, if that's what I came here to talk to you about, then I would be doing the exact same thing that I just criticized."
While criticizing Obama, Rubio also took aim at those who call for a crackdown on illegal immigrants. "The people who are against illegal immigration and make that the core of their argument view it as only a law-and-order issue but we know it's much more than that," Rubio said.
"These are real people. These are human beings who have children and hopes and dreams. These are people that are doing what virtually any of us would do if our children were hungry, if their countries were dangerous, if they had no hope for the future," Rubio said, drawing applause.
Rubio said a successful immigration solution must include credible enforcement, to win the confidence of people upset by illegal immigration. And he said existing immigration procedures must be made less burdensome and complicated for people who play by the rules.
That still leaves the question of what do with the estimated 12 million people now in the U.S. illegally, Rubio said.
"Here's the truth, if we're honest with ourselves: We don't know yet. I know we're not going to round up and deport 12 milion people.... I know we're not going to grant amnesty to 12 milion people," Rubio said. "And somewhere between those two ideas is the solution that will never be easy, but I promise you will get easier to find if we have a legal immigration system that works and the confidence of the American people."
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