Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a presidential candidate and son of Cuban immigrants, ruled out a pathway to legalization and citizenship for undocumented immigrants during his presidency.

During an interview on Fox News, Rubio said he is open to a pathway to citizenship but only after specific actions are addressed, which may take more than a decade to tackle.

"I don't think it's a decision you have to make on the front end," said Rubio. "The first two things you have to do is stop illegal immigration, then second you have to modernize our legal immigration system, and then third you can have a debate about how to even legalize people to begin with."

"And then ultimately in 10 or 12 years, you could have a broader debate about how has this worked out and should we allow some of them to apply for green cards and eventually citizenship," continued Rubio.

Democrats said Rubio's stance would have immigrants stay as second-class people.

"Rubio's embrace of an enforcement-only approach and putting off even debating the 11 million immigrants and their families means one thing: He opposes relief for immigrants who will be relegated to second-class status if he has his way," said Democratic National Committee Hispanic Media Director Pablo Manriquez. "If elected, Rubio guarantees immigrants zero results and an agenda that is stuck in the past with no hope for the future."

Rubio was previously involved with the bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform legislation from the 113th Congress, which included support from fellow Republican presidential candidate Sen. Lindsey Graham. The bill, S.744 "Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act," passed the Senate but was never picked in the House of Representatives.

S.744 would have provided further security at the U.S. border and a path to citizenship, in addition to other activities, but Rubio has since said the issue should be tackled in separate components.

Last May, Rubio said he still believes in comprehensive immigration reform, but "the problem is the votes aren't there in the House."

"If we want to move forward on immigration reform, the first thing we are going to have to do is prove to the American people that future illegal immigration is under control," said Rubio.

Rubio campaign spokesman Alex Conant wrote, via Bloomberg, that Rubio's stance on immigration reform has not changed.

"Marco's principles on immigration reform have not changed. It's clear that Democrats do not want to face Marco Rubio in a general election because he represents the future versus the past," wrote Conant.


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