Both parties are playing politics on the issue of immigration, Sen. Marco Rubio told a crowd of Latino officials Friday.
“I proposed some specific ideas and I publicly talked about it. The reaction from many on the left was an immediate dismissal….Of course a few months later the president takes a similar idea and implements it through executive action and now it’s the greatest idea in the world. I don’t care who gets the credit, I don’t, but it exposes the fact that this issue is all about politics for some people not just Democrats but Republicans too,” Rubio said in his address to the annual National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials Conference.
“I wasn’t looking for a talking point, I wasn’t looking to influence the election in November, I was looking to help these kids I’ve met,” Rubio said.
Rubio began his remarks in Spanish, before launching into immigration policy. He told the conference that while he had intended to address a wide range of policy issues in his speech, he ultimately decided to limit his focus to immigration.
“I think that perhaps we are as close as we have ever been to a political turning point in the debate about immigration,” he said. “And so I have abandoned my hopes of only talking about the economy and jobs as important as that may be for one moment in one day in the hopes of speaking frankly to you about the issue of immigration.”
He said that a “balanced approach” is necessary in solving the problem of illegal immigration.
“The only way to solve it is a balanced approach that recognizes this is complicated. And I think the way you have to do it you have to approach it number one by understanding that we have to win the confidence of the American people back,” he said.
The Florida senator also called for compassion when addressing the topic.
“The truth is there is not right to illegally immigrate to the United States and when we talk about illegal immigration it’s not about demanding rights, it’s about appealing to the compassion of the most compassionate nation in the history of the world,” he said.
Rubio did not offer any specifics on his alternative version of the DREAM Act, nor did he mention whether he plans to proceed with it in Congress.
He refrained from assigning specific criticism to the Obama administration- though he did not hold back from referencing the fact that Obama has not attended the conference during the past three years.
“I was tempted to come here and rip open the policies of the administration and in a few moments you’ll hear from the president. I was tempted to come here and tell you hey he hasn’t been here in three years. What a coincidence it’s an election year. I was tempted to tell you why didn’t he make this issue a priority. That’s not the direction I want,” he said.
Rubio spoke for around 20 minutes, and he appeared to be well received at the conference, his speech received applause at several points.
ABC’s Arlette Saenz and Joanna Suarez contributed to this report.