In an interview on Univision’s Sunday morning Al Punto con Jorge Ramos show, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) – who has been highly regarded as a potential nominee for vice president – repeatedly defended his position on immigration reform and his support of Arizona’s SB1070 law, which critics claim allows the profiling of Hispanics.
“Why do you support a law that in practice discriminates against and persecutes Hispanics,” Ramos asked of the man he said was not only a VP contender but who could become “the first Hispanic president of the United States.”
In the pre-taped interview that can be seen on the Spanish-language network’s website, Rubio — who said he put his controversy last year with Univision behind him — said he sympathized with Arizona lawmakers who found themselves in a difficult position and had circumstances that were more severe than in other states, but that it should not necessarily be repeated elsewhere.
“The law in Arizona is not black and white,” Rubio said, adding that there were unique circumstances that led to the passage of that law in 2010 and which the Supreme Court is expected to rule on next week.
“I understand why the legislators in that state specifically, because they face a situation different from other states, reacted the way they did. I think they have the right to do it.
“But I don’t think the law in Arizona should be a model for the country.”
Rubio’s appearance on Al Punto is one of many interviews the Senator is giving in recent days to promote his book, An American Son, released earlier this month. Earlier this week he was on a special edition of Fox’s Hannity, who called Rubio “one of the most talked about elected officials in the country.” Rubio was also on Meet the Press Sunday and on Monday, Rubio is scheduled to have interviews on FOX and Friends, The View, Charlie Rose, CNBC’s Kudlow Report and The Daily Show.
In the 37-minute interview on Al Punto, which was mostly about immigration policy, Ramos also mentioned the riff between Rubio and the network that developed after Univision aired a story last year about his brother-in-law’s drug arrest, which was written about in the Senator’s book. He also talked about how Rubio, on page 92, advocates English as the official language of the United States.
The conversation also turned to the Cuban-American legislator’s political ambitions.
The veteran journalist opened the interview saying that he read Rubio’s book and found it “extremely interesting.”
“It is a North American tradition for all young men who want to be president to write a book. John F. Kennedy, who you quote in your book, did it. Barack Obama,” Ramos said.
“That was not the purpose of the book. Nor do I have that particular ambition,” Rubio said about the presidency.
“The book was about two things. Firstly, obviously, there was another book being written about me and I thought it was important and there was interest in me writing my book and, to be honest, I wanted to give my side of the story, which I think is important. But I also wanted to share the experiences I had, the story I have because there are many people who find themselves in similar situations at this time,” Rubio said.
“I have found inspiration in the books I have read. I read the book by Barack Obama, Audacity of Hope, and while I obviously don’t share his political ideas, the idea of a candidate aspiring to the Senate like he did, not being the favorite, one sees that and thinks, “If he can do it I can too.’”
Ramos took the opportunity to go after the presidential question again: “He is the first African-American president. Why not the first Hispanic president?”
Said Rubio: “I don’t think there is any impediment for a Hispanic to become president of this great country.”
Asked Ramos: “Marco Rubio as president?”
“It is not my ambition in particular. But I think that if I do a good job in the Senate, I will have other opportunities. Maybe in politics, maybe in the press,” Rubio said, and smiled broadly. “I don’t know but those opportunities are presented when one does a good job.”
But aside from the few moments of playful banter, most of the interview was about immigration.
Rubio said Arizona had an open border and a lot of crime that some attributed to the arrival of too many undocumented immigrants. “There is a violence affecting North Americans, Hispanics included,” he said. “The federal government is not doing its job and the people are asking for help.”
The Senator held his ground and did not back down and challenged the premises made by Ramos and others that his stance on immigration is hypocritical and that he lives by a double standard where his grandfather, who at one time was under deportation orders, was granted a status that Rubio would deny others.
Rubio has repeatedly said that the individual cases within the larger issue were not all the same and that different circumstances have to be handled differently.
“Not everyone got in the same way,” he said. “And in Miami, I know a lot of people who are undocumented because they gave $5,000 to a lawyer who said they were going to help them and nothing happened.” Rubio made the same example when he spoke about immigration at the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officers Friday.
He also reiterated that he favors changes in the legal immigration process that would not make the illegal process more attractive.
Ramos reminded Rubio that the majority of Hispanics in the U.S. support some sort of legalization process for the estimated 11 million immigrants with no documentation or illegal status already living and working in the country. Rubio questioned the number, saying some have returned to Mexico because the economic situation there has improved, but said there was no blanket approach.
“I defend the opportunity of those who want to enter the U.S. legally. But we have a serious problem in this country. It is impossible to fix the system without the support of the American people who now have a valid concern with the legal system that doesn’t work and an illegal system that hurts this country,” he said.
“We have to deal with that situation. We have to win the confidence of the American people. And I think that starts with measures like trying to better the security on the border. The situation on the border has improved. And we have to recognize, I have visited the border, and it is better. But we have to keep improving it. It is not a case of immigration so much as a case of security and humanity.
“Secondly, we have to do a system of electronic verification, we use one here in our office, that we give employers a way to verify that that person looking for employment is here legally,” Rubio said. “If we can do that, then we can get the confidence we need to fix and improve our immigration system.
“This cannot be the only country in the world that does not enforce its legal immigration policy,” he shot back. “We are not going to deport 11 million people. The American people are not going to tolerate that when they see the people and their faces. We also won’t give amnesty to 11 million… there is no support for that.”