By Erik Wasson - 01/29/14 09:42 AM EST
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) on Wednesday said he is open to an immigration reform bill that does not include a path to citizenship for the nation’s estimated 11 million illegal immigrants.
Rubio, an architect of a Senate bill that provided a pathway to citizenship, was commenting on expected House GOP principles for immigration reform. The House GOP is expected to provide a pathway for legal status, but not citizenship.
“Is that is better than the status quo? Yes,” he said at a breakfast hosted by The Wall Street Journal.
But he then added that in the long-term, he believes it is not in the best interest of the United States to have a permanent class of residents who cannot become citizens.
“Do I think it is in the best interest of this country to have millions of people here who can never become Americans? I don’t,” he said.
Rubio said that the “fundamental” problem to passing immigration reform right now is skepticism on the right that the administration would enforce beefed up border security measures.
He said that Obama administration handling of the Internal Revenue Service scandal involving scrutiny of Tea Party groups and revelations about widespread National Security Administration spying have drummed up this skepticism.
“I don’t know if it can happen under this administration given its lack of willingness to enforce the law. It’s a real impediment,” he said. “I think that is the fundamental challenge right now … how do we gain people’s confidence that the enforcement will happen.”
Rubio said he has not been hurt by criticism from the right last year for his backing of comprehensive immigration reform.
“I’m lucky to live in a country where the worst thing that can happen is somebody writes a nasty blog post about me or says something on the radio,” he said.