Rubio emphasized what he and Jolly have in common on the issue -better enforcement mechanisms such as E-Verify, increased security measures on the border and a more robust enter-exit system to track when visitors to the U.S. legally on a temporary basis overstay their visas.
But the Senate bill that Rubio (at least initially) championed last year allows for a lengthy but legal pathway to citizenship for most of those currently undocumented in the country. That's an issue that that Jolly strongly disagrees with, calling it "amnesty."
"That’s a harder one," Rubio admitted regarding what to do with the undocumented already living in the country. He did add that "I think the vast majority of people understand that we have to do something about it."
Last week House Speaker John Boehner said that immigration was off the table for this year, thrilling some Republicans fearful that the issue could divide the party as the 2014 midterms grow near. The biggest reason, he said, was a lack of trust in President Obama. That fear stems from the president's unilateral actions regarding the Affordable Care Act, with the most recent action occurring this week when he delayed the employer mandate for companies of a certain size for another year.
Democrats and immigration advocates call that excuse lame, however. They say Republicans were looking for an excuse to give up on the issue while their own caucus remains deeply divided.
Rubio called the lack of trust in President Obama "The single biggest impediment standing in the way to solving this problem." He said that the GOP's collective lack of faith in Obama is also holding back tax reform, trade expansion and "anything that requires for the law to be enforced."
Jolly was relatively mum during this exchange, but emphasized that he had "enormous respect" for Rubio for tackling a "very difficult issue," adding that "nobody has had more conviction" than Rubio did on the issue.
Rubio does seem to have paid some political price for that advocacy, as he's received a cold shoulder from the Tea Party Patriots crowd that elevated his underdog Senatorial candidacy to rock-star status back in 2010. Some analysts have suggested that the resentment has been grown so large amongst the GOP base as to have seriously affect his presidential ambitions in 2016.
Meanwhile, a pro immigration reform organization called the Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM)—announced Tuesday it will step up its efforts to achieve comprehensive immigration reform by moving into a phase of "electoral punishment" for GOP inaction on the issue. They say they'll target a handful of lawmakers in this year's election, including the special election in CD13.