Although Marco Rubio hasn't himself employed the kind of vitriolic language Bush criticizes, he also hasn't been very sympathetic to comprehensive immigration reform. He has criticized the DREAM Act, which puts him in the minority of the overwhelming amount of Hispanics who do (91 percent, according to the Pew Hispanic Center).
But because Rubio's a Cuban American whose brand continues to grow nationally, the mainstream media likes to check in with him on occasion to talk about "Hispanic issues," a discussion which always reverts to illegal immigration. The freshman Florida U.S. Senator talks with Time magazine reporter Michael Scherer in an interview now accessible online.
It must be said that Rubio has never sounded more humanistic in talking about those who cross the border illegally.
"I'm always trying to remind my colleagues that if they lived in Mexico or anywhere in Latin America and their kids were hungry—every night went to sleep hungry—and your country provided no opportunity for you to feed them, you’re telling me that there’s nothing you wouldn’t do to feed them? You’re telling me you wouldn’t go anywhere there was a job so you could send money to them? I think the vast majority of people who enter this country illegally and legally do so because they’re looking for a better life, more opportunity for their kids. And I think we need to recognize that. I think we need to understand that many of them are doing what many of us would do if we were in the same position. That doesn’t excuse it. That doesn’t mean you legalize it. That doesn’t mean you overlook it, but I do think it puts a human element to it."
Theoretically the Latino vote could be up for grabs in 2012, like every other demographic that voted strongly for Barack Obama in 2008. But every poll shows that harsh anti-immigrant rhetoric, especially from Mitt Romney, is turning away independent voters from the Republican message. Obama took 67 percent of that vote in '08, but John Kerry took just 56 percent of it against George W. Bush in 2004. But Rubio admits the obvious: some of the Republican rhetoric has been so toxic, they've basically invited Latinos to vote Democrat.
"Ultimately there is, in my opinion, hundreds of thousands of conservatives and potential conservatives all across this country that will never become conservatives because they somehow feel that the party where the conservative movement is housed doesn’t want them. And that’s wrong, because that’s not true."
Rubio then says in the interview what Jeb Bush has previously said: that Democrats say they care about comprehensive immigration reform, but don't really.
Lots of Democrats would argue otherwise, saying that because of the 60 votes required to pass anything in Congress, they can't even pass something relatively mainstream like the DREAM Act. But it's also true that the last time a comprehensive bill was proposed was in 2006 and 2007, when George W. Bush was president.
And why doesn't Rubio support the DREAM Act, anyway? The legislation would make undocumented youth eligible for a six-year conditional path to citizenship that requires completion of a college degree or two years of military service. But Rubio says:
I think for the path to citizenship, the support is not there. I think for the path to legalization there can be a conversation. I think most people would say that’s not amnesty, but it has to be structured in the right way. Then the other thing that I would say that’s wrong with the DREAM Act is it provides for chain migration, which is something people feel strongly about. It can’t be used as an anchor to let as many as 3 million people come into the country.