Rubio Joins GOP Chorus Calling for More Moderate Rhetoric on Immigration

In a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal, freshman Florida Senator Marco Rubio said the Republican Party needs to be the “pro-legal immigration party,” and he criticized the way candidates for the GOP presidential nomination have been talking about immigration.

Rubio told the Journal he would turn down an offer to be the 2012 vice presidential candidate because he has only been in the Senate 10 months. The paper pointed out many within the Republican Party think he could help win the important Hispanic vote, since he is the son of Cuban immigrants.

While the WSJ characterized Rubio’s positions on immigration as mostly in keeping with the GOP at large, Rubio separated himself from the field of presidential hopefuls, saying their overheated rhetoric is hurting the candidates’ appeal among immigrant voters.

“The policies are important, but the rhetoric is sometimes the impediment,” Rubio told to paper. “Sometimes – and I’m not pointing fingers at anyone – the way the message is communicated is harmful and has hurt Republicans.”

Rubio said he does not think he alone could win the support of Hispanic voters for the 2012 GOP ticket. Statistics indicate he might be right. Because Cuban immigrants are afforded an expedited path to legal resident status due to the political situation in their home country, they are sometimes seen by other Hispanic immigrants as not facing the same challenges they do when it comes to obtaining a work permit, a green card or naturalization, the paper reported. Rubio won 78 percent of Florida’s Cuban-American vote in his Senate election but only 40 percent of the non-Cuban Hispanic vote, according to the WSJ.

While Rubio did not want to “point fingers” at any of the candidates for using inflammatory rhetoric about immigration, others in the party have not been so circumspect.

At a recent immigration summit in Utah, Paul Mero, president of the Sutherland Institute, said former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney needs to tone down his attacks on rivals for being soft on immigration, the Salt Lake Tribune reported.

Mero told the Tribune, “If Romney doesn’t change his tune, he will lose what should be a sure thing.”