Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said Thursday that he does not view Arizona’s crackdown on illegal immigration as a “model,” distancing himself from presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who has embraced the legislation.
The Cuban-American senator, who spoke at the University of Phoenix/National Journal’s Next America forum in Washington, is viewed as a top name on Romney’s vice presidential shortlist.
Rubio said he understood why frustration with illegal immigration led Arizona to pass a law allowing police to demand proof of citizenship. He also disagreed with the Obama administration’s contention that the law is unconstitutional. But he added, “I do not believe [laws like the one in Arizona] should be a model for the country.”
As a Senate candidate in 2010, Rubio vacillated on the Arizona law. He initially expressed some concerns but later said he would have voted for it.
Democrats have been zealously attacking Republican opposition to the Dream Act, potentially popular legislation that would grant citizenship to the children of illegal immigrants who go to college or enroll in the military. In recent weeks, Rubio has started countering the criticism by proposing an alternative that would allow these children to obtain legal status but not citizenship.
If Rubio is successful in building support for his proposal, he would help the GOP kick a potentially losing issue off the election-year table. Critics have said that his proposal would create a permanent underclass.