Rubio’s Take on DREAM ‘by Fiat’

by Robert Costa

Senator Marco Rubio of Florida tells National Review Online that President Obama’s executive order on immigration is part of a “growing consensus” in American politics about the children of illegal immigrants, but he is troubled by the president’s lawmaking “by fiat.”

“There is a growing sentiment in America about these kids,” Rubio says. “If you were four years old when your parents brought you here illegally, and you have grown up here your whole life and don’t even speak Spanish, and you are your high school’s valedictorian, you have a lot to contribute to our future. It kind of feels weird to deport you.”

Rubio acknowledges that his position on illegal immigration will not please every member of his party. But he believes that he can still be an opponent of illegal immigration while working to help the children of illegal immigrants to avoid deportation. Immigration is “not a black and white issue,” he says. “It’s a complicated issue. Complicated issues require careful solutions. On one hand, we want to help these kids, but we also do not want to do anything to encourage illegal immigration.”

Before Obama made his Rose Garden announcement, Rubio was planning to bring his own immigration bill — a variation on the Democrats’ DREAM Act — to the Senate floor. The legislation, according to various reports, would likely grant residency to illegal immigrants who plan to serve in the military or pursue higher education.

Rubio is now unsure of whether his immigration bill will move forward. He is considering various legislative options, but he has not settled on any particular path. In the meantime, he remains frustrated with the president. Obama should have consulted with lawmakers, he says, instead of “ignoring” the Constitution and Congress. “For kids who are desperate, this is good news,” he says. “But there will be long-term, negative consequences, in terms of arriving at a responsible solution.”

For the moment, Rubio has not discussed his legislative proposal with Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential nominee, but he is optimistic that GOP leaders, including Romney, will recognize the complexity of the immigration issue and his rationale for proposing a policy that may mirror Obama’s position more than the position of border hawks.

“I’ve only seen his public statements as of late, but I think he’s open minded about what we were working on,” Rubio says. As of last week, Rubio’s bill was not finalized, so he didn’t expect Romney or other Republicans to take a firm position. “We were still finishing up some details to avoid some of the unintended consequences,” he says. “At this point, we’re reevaluating and seeing how things play out.”

Rubio spoke with NRO as part of a book tour for An American Son, his new memoir, which hit bookstands this morning. In the book, Rubio narrates his political rise, as well as his parents’ emigration from Cuba.