June 18, 2012 -- President Obama's decision to relax immigration rules for hundreds of thousands of young illegal immigrants is a "short-term solution" that is "problematic" in the long run, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said in an interview with ABC News.
"These young people, they need a long-term solution, one that is balanced and does not encourage illegal immigration, but accommodates their situation," the Miami-born son of Cuban immigrants said in the interview that will air tonight on "World News With Diane Sawyer."
"My biggest fear is that by doing it in this way, by doing it by executive order, by ignoring the Congress, it's going to make it very hard to get something done that is permanent and that's really where the solution lies on this issue," he said.
Rubio, 41, has been working for months on his own immigration proposal, unfinished legislation that was similar to the DREAM Act but did not include citizenship provisions. When the junior senator from Florida heard the White House's announcement Friday, he had one question, "Why wouldn't someone [from the White House] call me?"
Watch David Muir's interview with Sen. Marco Rubio tonight on "World News with Diane Sawyer" at 6:30 pm E.T. and on "Nightline" at 11:35 pm E.T.
"I'm trying to find a solution here not a talking point. I'm trying to find an answer here, not a bumper-sticker slogan," Rubio said in the Friday interview. "The president's is a two-year solution that expires after two years and does not really solve this in a lasting way. It just gets him through the election. ... The White House never called us about this. No one reached out to us and told us this was on its way. And, I mean, if they were serious about a real solution to this problem and not politicizing it, then why don't you reach out to people."
President Obama has made clear he is still pursuing a permanent solution, with the involvement of Congress. He made that point at his Rose Garden announcement Friday, and he used his weekly radio address to implore Congress to pass the DREAM Act, and to continue to pursue an even broader "comprehensive immigration reform."
"Precisely because this is temporary, Congress needs to act," Obama said. "There is still time for Congress to pass the DREAM Act this year, because these kids deserve to plan their lives in more than two-year increments."
Under the new rules, up to 800,000 immigrants will be affected. Deportation will no longer apply to immigrants who came into the country before they were 16 and are now younger than 30, have lived here for five straight years, have never been convicted of a crime or graduated from high school or got a GED. Such immigrants will be allowed to apply for a two-year work permit that can be renewed unlimited times.
An ardent supporter of Mitt Romney, Rubio has been floated as a possible running mate for the Republican candidate. Romney is trailing Obama by more than 40 points with Hispanics in a recent Gallup poll and many Republicans believe the young, energetic senator from a swing state might be what Romney needs to win the election.
Despite the constant vice presidential speculation, Rubio, whose autobiography, "An American Son," will be released Tuesday, has made it a point to actively avoid the topic.
"I'm not going to talk about that process and it's not that I want to be evasive. I know that people have to ask the question, but it's a difficult process that he's [Romney] going through and the last thing he needs are for people like me ... discussing it or creating expectations about it," Rubio said. "He's going to make a great choice, then people can decide if they are going to agree with it or not. I have no doubt in my mind he'll make a very wise choice."
The last Republican candidate for vice president, Sarah Palin, emerged onto the political stage largely unknown and was the subject of criticism and controversy. Rubio believes she did not deserve the treatment she received.
"Sarah Palin has not been treated fairly at all in terms of coverage and the role that she played in that campaign. I can tell you that she added a lot of enthusiasm and excitement to the ticket," Rubio said.
"Look, John McCain did not lose the election because of Sarah Palin. ... After eight years of a Republican president, the economy was not doing well. ... [They] were running against an excellent communicator, a campaign that was very well funded, ran a very disciplined campaign," he said. "I mean it's surprising John McCain got 48 percent of the popular vote with all those factors."
While Rubio is sympathetic to Palin's plight during the 2008 campaign, he does not mince words when it comes to his feelings about the job Obama is doing, calling Obama "the most divisive figure in modern American history" during a recent event with supporters.
"He is deliberately [dividing] Americans against each other for purposes of political gain. ... If you look at this White House, they never pass up an opportunity to pit one group of Americans against another for purposes of improving his electoral chances," he said.
"Time and again, whether it is one group of Hispanics against another, men against women, rich against poor, he is constantly looking for opportunities to tell one group of Americans that they would be better off if one group of Americans was worse off," he said. "I think that while that is common in politics, it's not just Obama, it's common in politics. But what I think is really sad is that he had a chance to be different and in 2008 he was different."