By Meghashyam Mali - 06/20/12 01:07 PM EDT
GOP Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.) said Wednesday he has not met with presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney to discuss immigration policy since President Obama announced more lenient deportation rules last week.
“I have not had a conversation with him since the president’s decision came out,” said Rubio on “CBS This Morning.” The freshman lawmaker is considered a contender for Romney’s vice presidential pick and has made immigration reform a signature issue.
Romney has yet to clarify his own stance on immigration. He tacked hard to the right on the issue during the GOP primaries, but has sought to reach out to Hispanic voters ahead of the November election. While embracing Obama’s ruling even partially might help him with Hispanic voters who hold sway in several swing states, many in the GOP base oppose the policy, deriding it as a form of “amnesty.”
Rubio, though, defended Romney’s handling of the controversial issue, saying the former Massachusetts governor had shown sympathy for the young illegal immigrants who benefit from the rule change.
“From what I’ve read of some of the comments, they echo the things that we have said, which is that these kids and their circumstances, these are young people who came when they were 5 years old, lived here their whole lives, were valedictorians of their school. It doesn’t feel right to deport them,” said Rubio.
“Most Americans will want to accommodate them, but it has to be done in a reasonable, responsible, balanced way that’s part of a long-term solution,” he said.
Rubio has criticized Obama’s policy shift, suggesting it was an end-run around Congress and might have damaged the immediate prospects for more comprehensive immigration reform.
Rubio himself pushed for an alternative version of the DREAM Act proposal on immigration but abandoned those efforts this week after Obama’s policy shift.
“From what I’ve read and seen, Gov. Romney says the way the president did it is going to make it harder to find that balance, that long-term approach,” he said.
Rubio also said Romney needed to remind voters that Republicans were a “pro-legal immigration” party to bridge the gap between the controversial issue and efforts to attract more Hispanic voters.
“I’m a big supporter of a legal immigration system. We need to remind everybody that a million people a year immigrate to the U.S. legally — no other country in the world comes close to that,” he said. “We get hundreds of people a year in our office who are asking for help because their relatives have been waiting in line, doing it the right way. What do we tell them? ‘Come illegally, it’s cheaper and quicker’?
“On the other hand, if you meet some of these folks who come here in these circumstances, your heart breaks because most of them are doing what we would be doing if we were in the same situation that they were in."
Both Democrats and Republicans have called on Romney to clarify his own position, with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday saying GOP lawmakers were waiting until the presumptive GOP nominee met with Hispanic leaders on Thursday to unveil his position.
In the interview, Rubio refused to comment on speculation over his inclusion in Romney’s vice presidential vetting process.
Romney on Tuesday denied as “entirely false” a news report that said Rubio had not been vetted for the running mate spot. Romney said the Florida senator was being “thoroughly vetted as part of our process.”
Rubio said he had a longstanding policy to “not comment on the process.”
“I respect the process that Gov. Romney is going through; what I’m pretty confident of is that he’s going to make an excellent choice,” he said.