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Under fire from conservatives, Republican groups defend Marco Rubio on immigration

Sen. Marco Rubio is getting some support for going out on a political limb in support of the comprehensive immigration reform bill, making its way through Congress, that has angered some grassroots conservatives.

The New York Times reported Tuesday that the conservative Action Network is running a television ad in Florida that urges viewers to call Mr. Rubio to "Thank him for keeping his promise and fighting to secure the border."

Others are coming to the defense of Mr. Rubio, a likely 2016 GOP presidential contender, after he played a vital role in ushering a bill through the Senate last week that would legalize most of the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants living here and grant a path to citizenship for many of them.

The bill received the support of all 54 lawmakers in the Democratic caucus and 14 Republicans. The proposal waits on action from the GOP-controlled House.

Former Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour's group, Americans for Conservative Direction, is also running television ads in Iowa, which kicks off the presidential nomination process, that calls on viewers to "stand with Marco Rubio to end de facto amnesty," The Times also reported. (Mr. Rubio has argued that the current system amounts to de facto amnesty.)

The Americans for Prosperity Foundation, the Koch brothers' political advocacy group, also tapped Mr. Rubio to keystone its annual conference, which has been moved from Washington to Orlando.

Coming out of the 2012 election, the GOP has been waging a civil war over whether embracing a comprehensive immigration bill that offers a path to citizenship to illegal immigrants would help — or hurt — Republicans going forward.

Immigration is sure to play a key role in the 2016 presidential election, where Mr. Rubio and a number of the party's rising stars will be forced to take a stand on the thorny issue.

"I think we have a great bench," Carlos Gutierrez, who was commerce secretary under President George W. Bush and leads the "super Pac" Republicans for Immigration Reform, told The Times. "It's whether we can stop becoming our own worst enemy."

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