Senator Marco Rubio said President Barack Obama showed he was only “interested in a talking point” by not consulting congressional Republicans on a directive halting the deportations of some young people brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents.
The first-term senator from Florida, who declined to discuss reports that he is being vetted as a running mate for presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, said Obama’s June 15 directive “injected election-year politics into an issue that privately I thought we were making progress on.”
After Obama made his announcement, Rubio, 41, said he was dropping plans to introduce legislation that could grant work visas to some young people brought to the U.S. illegally.
The Senate’s only Hispanic Republican, Rubio today criticized the Obama administration for not contacting him before announcing the directive, saying that not consulting Republicans showed that the president had no interest in a bipartisan plan.
“This White House didn’t reach out to anybody,” Rubio said, speaking to reporters at a breakfast in Washington sponsored by the Christian Science Monitor. “I’ve never had one conversation with anybody in the administration about my idea or what it looks like.”
Rubio, the son of Cuban immigrants, said he had been working behind the scenes in the Senate to gain support for his provision, which was similar to a Democratic proposal that Republicans and a few Democrats killed in the Senate in 2010.
“If you’re really interested in a bipartisan solution and you read in the newspaper that there’s a Republican senator working on an idea, don’t you reach out to them and say, ‘Hey, how does your idea work? I’m just curious,’” Rubio said. “That never happened.”
Rubio, who has campaigned with Romney, said the former Massachusetts governor was doing a good job of recasting the Republican Party as “the pro-legal-immigration party,” not just the “anti-illegal-immigration party.”
He said Republicans’ main objections following Obama’s announcement were centered on the president’s decision to bypass Congress, rather than on the substance of the policy change.
While he said Democrats probably would continue to outstrip Republicans in terms of support from Hispanic voters in the short term, he attributed that deficit to large pockets of Latinos who live in areas dominated by Democrats and have formed ties with that party.
“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 geographic allegiance to one party or ideology, who vote for the candidate, not the party,” he said.
An NBC/Wall Street Journal/Telemundo poll conducted May 16-21 found that Obama had a 34-point lead over Romney among registered Latino voters.
Earlier this year during the Republican primaries, Romney said he opposed granting legal status to illegal immigrants. More recently he has been softening his tone.
Romney told Hispanic elected officials today that Obama hasn’t shown leadership on immigration issues. However, the former Massachusetts governor offered few details on his plan other than pledging “my own long-term solution that will replace” Obama’s temporary measure.
“Last week, the president finally offered a temporary measure -- he called it a stopgap measure -- that he seems to think will be just enough to get him through the election,” Romney said today to the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials at Disney’s Contemporary Resort in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.
Romney said that Obama, while focusing on other issues during his almost three-and-a-half years in office, “did nothing to advance a permanent fix for our broken immigration system.”
For many Hispanic voters, immigration is a “gateway issue” because most personally know someone affected by immigration policy, Rubio said. He said Obama’s directive left many unanswered questions about how it would be implemented.
“This issue will never be solved in a reasonable and responsible way until it is significantly de-politicized,” he said. “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.”