Tal Kopan, Politico, June 25, 2013
Sen. Marco Rubio gave a lengthy defense of his work on immigration reform on Tuesday, telling a room full of journalists that he wasn’t in the debate to score political points or guarantee Republicans the Hispanic vote, but rather because it’s personal.
Speaking for nearly 45 minutes at a conference of the American Society of News Editors in Washington, the Florida Republican reiterated a line from a recent interview that he doesn’t expect his involvement on the issue will win him any parades, and he also addressed the criticism that he might be working against his party by legalizing 11 million new citizens that will vote Democrat.
”I have never ever said to anyone and I will not say here today that if we pass this bill, suddenly Republicans are going to get to 55 percent of the Hispanic vote across the country. I do think that if we do deal with this issue, it will allow us to talk about other issues,” Rubio said in a response to an audience question, mentioning economic issues that over the long run he believes will win over Hispanics and others to the conservative cause.
Ten or 15 years from now, Rubio said, Hispanics’ political views could be different.
“America changes immigrants, and people will change, especially once they begin to become fully enveloped in the American economic experience. … Your views on these issues begin to evolve rapidly,” Rubio said. “The future of the conservative movement in America is to try to convince as many of our fellow Americans as possible that limited government and free enterprise is the best way forward for them and for our country.”
Rubio said one of the biggest barriers to Americans’ acceptance of immigration reform was not a distrust of immigrants, but rather a distrust of government. He said that the border security deal approved by the Senate on Monday, which requires doubling the size of border patrol, implementing e-verify systems and extending the border fence before offering immigrants a pathway to citizenship, could gain back some of that trust.
Rubio said ultimately, the issue is personal for him. In addition to being the child of immigrants, Rubio said immigration is something he literally faces every day.
“For me immigration is not theoretical,” Rubio said. “I am surrounded by immigration on a daily basis. And there’s no way you can live where I live, grew up where I grew up and interact with the people I interact with and ignore that what we have right now is an absolute disaster.”
Speaking to a crowd of journalists about his life story and career thus far, Rubio also couldn’t escape questions about his 2016 aspirations, but he said he wasn’t thinking about that — yet.
“At some point in late 2014, what I’m going to have decide is, do I want to serve another term in the Senate? Do I want to run for another office like the one you’ve mentioned? Or do I want to give someone else a chance to serve in public service?” Rubio said.