WASHINGTON — Sidestepped with an executive order by President Barack Obama, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio indicated Monday he may back off legislation giving legal status to some children of illegal immigrants.
Obama on Friday announced his administration was doing something similar, by blocking deportations of young undocumented residents and allowing them to get work permits.
Rubio acknowledged it could make many young people happy but criticized Obama for bypassing Congress and said it could impede his own efforts by inflaming an already contentious issue.
"It's going to make it harder to elevate the debate," Rubio said in an interview with the Miami Herald. He made similar comments to other publications with interviews coinciding with the release of his new book.
"I didn't want this to be a divisive thing," Rubio told the Herald. "I didn't want to intro(duce) a bill that immediately led to all of the squabbling that has invariably doomed efforts at reform in the past. And to do that, you have to sit down with all of the stakeholders."
Rubio's proposal, however, is still undrafted and he indicated last week — before Obama made his move — that it could be difficult to get it done this year. A slew of Republicans blasted Obama's plan as "amnesty," which showed the difficulty Rubio faced himself as he privately tried to build support.
The White House denied political calculations, overlooking an obvious upside as the president heads to Florida this week to address the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials.
Rubio said the White House never reached out to him even though he'd been meeting with Republicans and young immigrants who would be affected by his plan, an alternative to the DREAM Act that has failed to pass a divided Congress.
Rubio's proposal would create nonimmigrant visas but not a new path to citizenship. Nor would Obama's, estimated to affect as many as 800,000 people.