Rubio, White House seek to calm their bases on compromise immigration bill

Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioRubio heckled by protestors outside immigration detention facility Bill to protect work licenses of student loan debtors is welcome development Political figures pay tribute to Charles Krauthammer MORE (R-Fla.) and White House press secretary Jay Carney both worked Wednesday to shore up support for the Gang of Eight's immigration bill amid complaints from liberals and conservatives that the compromise bill falls short.

Rubio, appearing on the Laura Ingraham show, was peppered with questions about portions of the bill that expanded cell phone access on the U.S.-Mexico border. Some conservative websites have suggested the legislation would provide free cell phones to undocumented immigrants.

“That’s false,” Rubio said. “That’s not for the illegal immigrants. That’s for U.S. citizens and residents who live in the border region so that they can have access to calls. One of their complaints - that’s actually part of the Kyl border bill that we adopted. And what it does is it provides communication equipment to people who are living in the border region so they can report illegal crossings because many of them either don’t have phone service or don’t have cell phone service and they have no way of calling.”

Rubio also dismissed callers who suggested he had been tricked by Democrats into abandoning his own principles to strike an immigration deal.

"The fact of the matter is that this bill reflects principles that I issued back in January on immigration reform that are different from those that the President had laid out," Rubio said. "They have come to our position; we have not come to theirs.”

The Florida lawmaker sought to quell fears that government would not be able to enforce the December 31, 2011 eligibility date included in the bill. Under the law, undocumented immigrants would need to prove they had entered the country before that date and lived in the United States continuously.

"The burden of proof is on them to prove not just that they came here before that date, [but that] they have been continually present," Rubio said.

Rubio spokesman Alex Conant said on Twitter that the Florida lawmaker was making talk-radio appearances to "explain immigration reform and knock down misinformation."

At the White House, press secretary Jay Carney was questioned on the bill's exclusion of a new category of visas for same-sex foreign national spouses of U.S. citizens. Gay rights groups and President Obama had advocated for the visas, which are currently prohibited under the Defense of Marriage Act.

"As the president said, this bill's clearly a compromise, and no one will get everything they want from it, including the president," Carney said. "That's the nature of compromise."

But the press secretary emphasized the legislation was "largely consistent with the principles he has laid out repeatedly."

Carney also sought to reassure immigration activists that the proposal would not falter as the White House focused attention on the investigation into the Boston Marathon bombing. A planned roll-out of the Gang of Eight immigration bill was scrapped earlier this week out of deference to the victims of the terror attack.

"Look, these are all top priorities," Carney said. "The top and highest priority for this president is the safety and security of the American people, and the bombings in Boston, the explosions in Boston that killed and maimed people have his absolute focus… There are also many other issues that are essential to making progress in this country on reducing gun violence, on fixing our terribly broken immigration system, on helping our economy grow and create jobs, and that is the absolute nature of the world we live in and the business that we need to conduct, and the president is focused on all of this."

This post was updated at 1:08 p.m.