Republican Sen. Marco Rubio on Thursday pushed for legal immigration to this country, called for prudence in the possible regularization of the status of millions of undocumented foreigners already living here and urged a permanent solution for people brought here illegally as children.
The Cuban American from Florida, a rising figure in the Republican Party, emphasized that "the issue of kids that are in this country undocumented is not an immigration issue, it's a humanitarian one."
The young immigrants in that situation are commonly referred to as "DREAMers," because the long-stalled DREAM Act is aimed at providing them with a path toward legalization.
"(Y)ou can be for legal immigration - you don't have to be for amnesty - but you also need to understand that we're speaking about human beings," Rubio said at the fourth annual Washington Ideas Forum.
He called for an immediate "permanent solution" for the DREAMers and said that the provisional measure implemented by the Obama administration last summer to grant qualified young migrants a renewable two-year reprieve from deportation and a work permit was "politicized."
Rubio said that immigration reform that legalizes the 11 million undocumented foreigners in the United States without deeper changes would only deal for a time with the people living here illegally, since waves of immigration would occur again.
He discussed implementating a legal immigration system in the country that would be based on family reunification of immigrants and work permits in areas such as agriculture and construction.
Rubio said that comprehensive immigration reform "will take more time" than other political priorities.
There are many analysts who say that the Florida senator is a promising figure within the Republican Party who could help to renew it and connect with the growing Latino electorate, which demonstrated its political clout in the recent elections.
At the forum, Rubio said that his recent visit to Iowa, home of the first presidential party caucuses, had nothing to do with his possible candidacy for president in 2016.