Following another night of Republican primary candidates battling it out over the topic of immigration, Florida Senator Marco Rubio, speaking at a Hispanic Leadership conference in Miami on Friday, struck a conciliatory tone.
“We must admit that there are those among us that have used rhetoric that is harsh and intolerable and inexcusable,” he told the audience. “And we must admit — myself included — that sometimes we’ve been too slow to condemn that language for what it is.”
Rubio’s 20-minute speech, dedicated almost exclusively to the theme of immigration, reached far beyond the narrow Latino confines of Cuban Miami and was, at its heart, a challenge to his Republican colleagues. “I have challenged the Republican nominees and all Republicans to not just be the anti-illegal immigration party,” he said. “That’s not who we are, that’s not who we should be. We should be the pro-legal immigration party.”
There is “broad bipartisan support” for solutions, such as a guest worker system and speeding up the “complicated and burdensome” process for people to obtain U.S. visas, Rubio said. Though he did not endorse the so-called DREAM Act, he said politicians had to find a way “to accommodate” the students of undocumented immigrants who are shut out of educational benefits such as in-state tuition.
A small group of protesters tried to interrupt Rubio’s speech with shouts of, “Why don’t you support undocumented students?” When security officials moved toward the protesters, who were carrying signs that read “Latino or Tea Partino,” Rubio called out, “I ask that you let them stay because I think they’ll be interested in what I’m going to say.” But the protesters were escorted out.