Politics & Government

Fla. Senate candidate Rubio takes tough stance on immigration

As an underdog U.S. Senate candidate courting the GOP's conservative wing, Marco Rubio takes a hard-line position against illegal immigration: no amnesty.

But as the powerful speaker of the Florida House, presented with a slew of bills aimed at curbing illegal immigration, he didn't put a single proposal up for a vote.

"A lot of us are mad at him because he did block those bills," said David Caulkett, a founder of Floridians for Immigration Enforcement. "Rubio claims to be anti-amnesty, but the question is, 'Do we trust him?' ."

Rubio says he hasn't wavered in his opposition to granting citizenship to illegal immigrants but that the issue should be dealt with by the federal government, not the states. The Legislature was focused on tax and insurance reform on his watch, he said.

"We picked one or two key issues," Rubio said in a recent interview. "States can't solve illegal immigration."

Rubio's record on immigration is under scrutiny now that the issue is on his agenda and his bid against Gov. Charlie Crist for the Republican nomination is gaining ground. Immigration was nowhere to be found in the book of 100 Innovative Ideas for Florida's Future he compiled as House speaker; now it's among nine issues addressed on his campaign website.

The son of Cuban exiles born in Miami says he opposed the proposal spearheaded in 2006 by former Sen. Mel Martinez -- whose early retirement triggered Rubio's 2010 campaign -- that would have allowed illegal immigrants to work toward citizenship. Crist supported the bill.

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