If Congress does not act, he said, the president could be “tempted” to use the power of his office to legalize millions of people who are here illegally — as he did last year with children of undocumented residents.
“We can’t leave it, in my mind, the way it is,” Rubio said. “Because I think a year from now we could find ourselves with all 11 million people here legally under executive order from the president, but no E-Verify, no more border security, no more border agents, none of the other reforms that we desperately need.”
The executive order idea has gained favor among immigration reform activists as a backup if a bill cannot pass both chambers of Congress.
But Obama has stressed the need for a bill. “The only solution to this problem is for Congress to fix the broken immigration system by passing comprehensive reform,” White House spokeswoman Joanna Rosholm said Tuesday.
Rubio also has taken quiet steps. About six weeks ago he called tea party leader Tim Curtis in Tampa and asked him to set up a meeting of activists.
“I thought it was a robocall. Like many calls it started off with, ‘Hello this is Sen. Marco Rubio.’ There was a pregnant pause and he said, ’Mr. Curtis?’ He said, ‘This is Sen. Marco Rubio, I’d like to talk with you.’”
Curtis said he attended a recent grass-roots meeting with Rubio in Orlando and heard the same argument he gave Monday night in Gainesville.
“He spoke passionately about why he has moved forward on the immigration bill. I disagree with his position but at a minimum he needs to come out and say that to more people.”
Curtis is still waiting for Rubio to follow through with plans to meet in Tampa. “He failed to do that. That’s not a good thing because I’ve got a big mouth.”
Tampa Bay Times Washington Bureau Chief Alex Leary can be reached at email@example.com.