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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Marco Rubio on his Dream Act alternative, Ann Coulter and who he thinks should be VP



Sen. Marco Rubio says he is drawing on his "100 Ideas" concept from the Florida Legislature in crafting an alternative Dream Act -- a still unreleased proposal that has drawn criticism as a half-measure.

"We're taking a lot of input," Rubio said in an interview. "I'm not just interested in what politicians think or even interest groups. I'm much more interested in the kids that are being impacted. I want to craft a solution that deals with them, with real life stories, with real life people. So I'm coming back to my 100 Ideas 'idea raisers' concept ... Sitting down with them and really trying to understand their personal predicaments and how we can address those both short-term and long-term."

The 100 Ideas was a book that loosely served as the agenda for Rubio's term as House speaker in 2006-08. Newt Gingrich called it a "work of genius." Democrats (and some Republicans) saw it as a populist gimmick that mostly served Rubio's ambitions.

Rubio opposes the Dream Act. But he says he wants to find some way to accommodate some youths, as does the GOP fearful of further alienating Hispanics. His proposal, which he has only described in broad terms, would allow undocumented students (and presumably some members of the military) to remain in the U.S. legally with a special visa.

But it would not create a path to citizenship. Rubio said the Dream Act would spur "chain migration" in which the youths become an anchor for family members to flock to the U.S. The editorial page of the New York Times blasted the idea as a half measure -- a dream act without the dream. "This idea is nothing more than some newly invented third-class status — not illegal, but not American," the editorial read.

"I found it startling that the New York Times would write an op/ed criticizing an idea that hasn't even been filed yet," Rubio said.

But what about notion of creating a different class? "It's false," Rubio replied.

Why is it false?

"Because there is nothing that prohibits them from getting citizenship. We just don't create a new pathway. The bottom line is they would have a visa of some sort and like they and any other visa holder in this country can get in line and apply for residency. You have to wait in line but you get to wait in line in the U.S, legally. They would be here living, studying working, while they're waiting in line. We have a broken legal immigration system. Someone would say, 'Well it's going to take them forever to get residency.' " Well, that's true of anybody. The system has to be modernized but that's a separate topic. It doesn't create a pathway to citizenship directly but doesn't prohibit them from entering the regular pathway."

In the interview, Rubio was asked to respond to Ann Coulter's criticism that he is "untested" and would be a poor choice as a vice presidential running mate.

"I didn't see what she said, but it doesn't matter," he replied. "It's all academic because I'm not going to be the vice presidential nominee. I'm focused on my job in the Senate. I don't know what I'll do in the future but right now, that's what I'm focused on."

Jeb Bush said you would be a good running mate.

"It's a high compliment but there are some things I want to do in the Senate. I enjoy the Senate. I'm excited about some of the things we're going to be able to do if we can get in the majority," Rubio said.

Then who does he think should be VP?

"I think Jeb would be a great vice president," he said, laughing.

[Last modified: Tuesday, April 3, 2012 4:07pm]


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