By Alexander Bolton - 06/21/12 05:07 PM EDT
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) on Thursday criticized the White House for failing to take a sincere interest in reforming the nation’s immigration laws and accused President Obama of political posturing.
But Rubio conceded that Democrats are likely to do much better among Hispanic voters this year, despite whatever stances Mitt Romney takes on the issue in the coming weeks.
“If you’re really serious about finding a solution to this problem, don’t you work with the people who are interested in this?” Rubio said at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.
“It shows that they’re not really serious about finding a bipartisan solution. They’re interested in a talking point. I was hoping that this issue could be elevated beyond politics,” he said of the Obama administration.
Rubio said the president’s political maneuvering on the issue stands in the way of a bipartisan solution to the nation’s illegal immigration problems.
“As long as immigration is a political issue used by both sides against each other we will never reach the kind of reasonable and balanced approach to it that it needs and deserves and it’s the reason why I was upset at the way the president did what he did last week,” Rubio said. “I think he injected election year politics into an issue that privately I thought we were making progress on.”
Rubio also accused Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) of political posturing.
He noted that Reid praised Obama’s executive order but had previously criticized legislation Republicans were crafting that would have done largely the same thing. Reid dismissed the GOP effort because it reportedly would not have offered a path to citizenship to illegal immigrants who came to the nation at a young age and demonstrate themselves to be productive citizens.
The Democrats’ DREAM Act would offer a path to citizenship for this group of immigrants, but Obama’s order does not.
Rubio praised Romney’s effort to reach out to Hispanic voters but acknowledged that Democrats would significantly outperform Republicans among this electoral bloc.
“There is a historical reality that Democrats are in the short term going to do much better among Hispanics,” he said.
Rubio attributed that trend to the large number of liberal Hispanics across the nation. He said they would vote for Obama regardless of Romney’s or his own efforts to reform immigration.
He said the political allegiances of Hispanics are as influenced by geography as anything else, noting that Cuban Americans who settle in Florida are predominantly Republican but those who settle in New Jersey tend to be overwhelmingly Democrat.
Rubio said his party should focus on making inroads to Hispanic voters in swing states where they are more persuadable.
“What I think we should focus on is the growing number of Hispanic voters in key states like Florida, Virginia, Iowa, North Carolina and others that are much more open-minded, that do not have a long-standing — via geographic — allegiance to one political party or ideology,” he said.
Rubio, who is being vetted as a potential running mate on the GOP presidential ticket, defended Romney’s position on immigration.
Rubio said that Romney does not support self-deportation as an immigration policy.
“It’s not a policy, I think it’s an observation of what people will do in a country that’s enforcing its immigration laws,” he said.
Rubio praised Romney for reframing the debate to argue that the GOP is the party in favor of legal immigration, not the party that wants to crack down on illegal immigrants.
He said Romney did a better job than any of his competitors in the Republican primary “discussing how the Republican Party is not simply the anti-illegal immigration party.”
He said Republican politicians and lawmakers should discuss ways to improve federal legal immigration programs.
Creating a functional guest-worker program, improving high-tech visas and streamlining the bureaucracy of visa programs were among his suggestions.
Rubio said being “anti-immigration” is not a principle of the right.