How Marco Rubio's Mom Influenced Him on Immigration Reform

Haraz N. Ghanbari/AP Photo

Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida may be a rising star in the Republican Party, but he still takes his mother's advice to heart.

In an interview with Time magazine, Rubio said his mother, Oriales Garcia Rubio, left him a voice mail in December that urged him to tread cautiously when it came to undocumented immigrants, whom she called "los pobrecitos," Spanish for "the poor things."

"Tony, some loving advice from the person who cares for you most in the world," Rubio's mother said in Spanish in a voice mail played for Time magazine. "Don't mess with the immigrants, my son. Please, don't mess with them.

"They're human beings just like us, and they came for the same reasons we came. To work. To improve their lives. So please, don't mess with them," she said.

Rubio, who introduced a plan for immigration reform as part of a bipartisan "gang of 8? senators last week, said that his mother's voice mail counsel reinforced to him the need to address the "human element" involved in immigration reform.

"I have to balance that humanity with reality," he said. "We have immigration laws. They have to be followed. But yeah, she reminded me that there's a human element to this as well. As a policymaker, you have to strike a balance."

Rubio's family immigrated to the United States from Cuba in the 1950s, and Rubio often recounts the struggles his parents faced when they first came here and the sacrifices they made for their children.

"They immigrated to America with little more than the hope of a better life," Rubio said last August in his speech at the Republican National Convention in Tampa. "My dad was a bartender. My mom was a cashier, a hotel maid and a stock clerk at Kmart. They never made it big. They were never rich. And yet, they were successful - because just a few decades removed from hopelessness, they made possible for us all the things that had been impossible for them.

"He was grateful for the work he had, but that's not the life he wanted for us," Rubio said of his father's bartending. "He stood behind a bar in the back of the room all those years so one day I could stand behind a podium in the front of a room. That journey, from behind that bar to behind this podium, goes to the essence of the American miracle - that we're exceptional not because we have more rich people here. We're special because dreams that are impossible anywhere else, they come true here. That's not just my story. That's your story. That's our story."