Sen. Marco Rubio said Friday that lawmakers should take a piecemeal approach to immigration reform, months after helping push a sweeping bill through the Senate that dealt with various aspects of the broken immigration system.
Mr. Rubio, Florida Republican, said that the “toughest issue of all” is getting lawmakers to agree on whether there should be a pathway to citizenship for some of the estimated 11 million people living in the country illegally.
“We have to address that issue in a realistic way,” he said on CNN’s “New Day.” “I think it gets easier to address that issue if we deal with some of the other issues first. I think if people have real confidence that the law is being enforced, that we are not going to have this problem again, that there is real border security — I think you buy yourself more space and flexibility in finally dealing with those who are here illegally.”
Mr. Rubio was one of the driving forces behind the roughly 1,200 page bill that passed through the Senate, after 14 Republicans joined all of the chamber’s Democratic caucus members in support.
The proposal would offer quick legal status to illegal immigrants, but withhold full citizenship rights until some conditions are met.
It links future citizenship rights to improved border security.
The fight has since shifted to the House where GOP leaders have suggested they are more interested in taking up a series of bills on the chamber floor than taking up the broad Senate bill.
President Obama supports the Senate bill and called on lawmakers this week to refocus their attention on the subject.
“We have kicked this particular can down the road for too long,” Mr. Obama said. “This is the moment when we should be able to finally get the job done. Let’s go get it done.”
Mr. Rubio said that the nation now has a “defacto amnesty.”
“The status quo is a defacto amnesty,” he said. “So we have to address that issue in a realistic way.”