Rubio on Immigration: Will Be a Challenge for the GOP

Since the Republicans lost both the White House and any chance of gaining control of the U.S. Senate for the foreseeable future, party leaders are licking their wounds and trying to determine how to attract Hispanic voters. Now Florida Sen. Marco Rubio is saying that goal will be a "challenge."

"The challenge for the conservative movement, the challenge for every movement in America … is applying [our] principles to the 21st century," he said to Politico's Mike Allen at Wednesday's Playbook Breakfast. "We applied them to the 20th century, but now we have to apply them to the 21st century."

However, Rubio does think there is a decent chance of immigration reform being passed before the end of President Obama's second term, including a path to citizenship.

But the best odds he will give it are "more than 50/50."

"I certainly believe that portions of immigration reform can be dealt with quicker than others but my hope is that for the good of this country we will have dealt with that issue," he said.

The first term senator and former Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives is seen as someone that will play a major role in the GOP's strategy to win back Latino voters, 70 percent of whom voted for President Obama in November's election.

Rubio was working on his own version of the DREAM Act when President Obama announced in mid-summer that the children of illegal immigrants would not be deported for the foreseeable future. The executive order, that Republicans say was little more than an election year ploy, doused any chance of Rubio's bill being passed.

He also knows that finding the right solution to immigration reform will be a struggle and may get tougher before a viable solution can be agreed upon. For example, legal immigrants complain that those who come to the country illegally will be given immediate access to citizenship.

Still, Rubio is pragmatic on the issue.

"This is going to take a while. There is no magic solution to this, or it would have been done a long time ago," he said.

The Florida Republican does feel the GOP must put forth a better effort in reaching out to Hispanics, making them feel as if they really matter and will contribute to their community and to the nation.

"When you talk about illegal immigration, you're not talking about a plague of locusts. You're talking about people," Rubio said. "That's why it's such a big issue in the Hispanic community. It's not just a statistical issue."

Since Mitt Romney's loss to President Obama in November, Rubio's stock within the GOP has risen exponentially, and now that Sen. Jim DeMint has announced his retirement from the Senate to lead The Heritage Foundation, Rubio will gain more time in the spotlight when conservative issues are being discussed.

When asked by Politico's Mike Allen if he intends to position himself for a White House run in 2016, Rubio was mum, saying he had yet to make up his mind.

"I have a job now and the best thing I can do is to do the best I can at the job I have now," he said. "What I have learned from watching others, and from myself, is if you do your job you always have opportunities."

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