Rubio: 'It Feels Weird to Deport a Valedictorian'

Susan Jones | June 19, 2012 | 9:29am EDT
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Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. speaks in Washington. (AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari, File)

( - Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) says the United States has "a significant illegal immigration problem" and needs to find a "balanced" solution:

"I mean, if you do something that somehow encourages illegal immigration in the future, it's counterproductive. On the other hand, it feels weird to deport a valedictorian who has been here since they were four years old and have done well in school. So, trying to find the balance there, that is important," Rubio told Sean Hannity Monday night. "What the President did by ignoring the Constitution, ignoring the Congress, makes it harder to find that balance, not to mention that it's offensive to the constitutional principles of our republic."

Rubio noted that a million people come into the U.S. through proper legal channels every year. "No other country even comes close to that figure," he said. "But if you even suggest that you have an illegal immigration problem and we need to do something about it, if you're a Republican, oftentimes the left will label you as anti-immigrant. And, you know, this is a slam-dunk issue that is easy -- it's just not true.

"You know, on the one hand, we do have a significant illegal immigration problem. It has to be confronted. It has to be solved. We cannot be the only country in the world that does not enforce its immigration laws. On the other hand, we have some very compelling human stories like the cases of these young people who have been here their whole life, who've grown up here, brought here at a young age, through no fault of their own, and it touches your heart to hear these stories. And trying to find a reasonable balance that honors both our legacy as a nation of immigrants and also with the legacy as a nation of laws is not easy."

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In March, citing "prosecutorial discretion," federal immigration officials told a North Miami Senior High School valedictorian they were deferring deportation proceedings against her. Daniela Pelaez's case made national headlines after several thousand students, teachers and community members gathered in the streets of North Miami to protest her imminent deportation.

Rubio told Hannity that President Obama, in directing his administration to enforce part of a bill (the DREAM Act) that Congress did not pass, is applying a short-term fix to a "very significant issue that needs to be solved in a long-term way."

Rubio said one of the things that's not being discussed enough is "that the economy and the economic downturn under Barack Obama has especially hurt Americans of Hispanic descent." He noted that unemployment is higher among Hispanics than it is among other groups, and polls show "there's not as much intensity for the president as there was in the past."

He said President Obama, every week, comes out with another issue -- "to try to divide Americans against each other for the purpose of getting him reelected."

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