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CNN "The Situation Room" - Transcript

Interview

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But the Republican presidential candidate offered few specifics about what he'd do. The immigration issue certainly now front and center for the White House contenders and for a possible Romney running mate. And joining us now from Capitol Hill, the junior senator from the state of Florida, Marco Rubio. He's the author of a brand new book entitled -- simply entitled "An American Son." There it is. You see it up on the screen.

Hey, Senator Rubio, thanks very much for coming in. Really appreciate it.

SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R), FLA.: Thanks for having me.

BLITZER: I want to get to the book in a few moments. Let's talk a little bit about immigration right now, the search for Latino support out there. You heard -- I assume you heard Mitt Romney's address before elected Latino officials earlier in the day. And to me, at least, it seemed sort of different, the tone, at least, compared to what he was saying during the primary. Did you hear that?

RUBIO: Well, what I've heard, Wolf, is that we're the pro-legal immigration party. That's the argument I've always made it that the Republican Party is not simply the anti-illegal immigration party, it's the pro-legal immigration policy. We understand legal immigration is good for America and important for America's economic future.

We recognize that America has one of the most generous immigration programs in the world. Over a million people a year immigrate here legally. No other country even comes close. But we have an illegal immigration problem, and that's a legitimate concern as well.

BLITZER: The Obama campaign wasted no time coming out with a tough statement reacting to what Romney said today. They recall that during the Republican primaries, he said he would -- he called the DREAM Act -- and a variation of that you seemed to have liked --the DREAM Act a handout and he promised he would veto it if it were enacted and he were president.

Today we didn't hear that from Romney.

RUBIO: Well, first of all, I think he's been pretty clear he doesn't support the DREAM Act. And I don't support the DREAM Act either. I do think there's a better way to do it. I talk about that in my book.

There is a way to accommodate these kids that find themselves in this circumstance through no fault of their own, but there's a way to accommodate them without encouraging or incentivizing illegal immigration in the future.

And I think that's what you saw Governor Romney say today, is that if he's president, he's not going to find a political solution or a talking point, he's not going to find a stopgap measure, he's going to find a real serious, balanced and responsible approach that honors our legacy as a nation of immigrants, that understands the humanitarian component of this problem, but that does so in a way that doesn't encourage or reward illegal immigration in the future. Look, I think you can understand the human component of this. And these are human beings. I talk about this in my book, who, what they want us to provide their families a better future. Some come from very desperate situations.

Of course you understand why they're doing that. But we also have to have immigration laws. We can't be the only country in the world that doesn't have immigration laws and doesn't enforce them. And I think there's a balance there that we have to find. And I think that's what he'll do as president. He's not going to politicize it the way this president has done.

BLITZER: When you heard the president last week come out with his new directive on allowing some young illegal immigrants to stay in the United States, to get legal status for two years at a time to go get jobs, et cetera, you, immediately afterwards, you pulled off from your alternative to the DREAM Act.

You were hoping to work with Democrats and others to find some sort of alternative way to deal with this. You've backed away from that now. Why?

RUBIO: Well, what I said was that I thought that by doing it the way he did, it's going to make it harder to find the kind of solution in the long-term that we all want to do.

Look, what I first encountered when I came to the Senate was no one wanted to talk about immigration. There were too many scars. People gone through too much in years past. This is a very highly charged, very politicized issue.

And the argument that I was making was that this was a humanitarian issue, not simply an immigration one. These kids are here in the circumstance through no fault of their own. There's got to be a way to accommodate them without rewarding or encouraging illegal immigration.

And that's what we're working on. And then in comes the president without talking to anybody and basically does it by executive order, and five months before the election in a blatant effort to try to win Hispanic votes or at least to energize the Hispanic vote and to turn it against Republicans. He's politicized it.

So if it's going to be a political ping-pong and a political talking point, it's going to be very difficult to come up with the kind of measured, responsible approach that we've been working on.

BLITZER: Should illegal immigrants be allowed to volunteer to serve in the United States military?

RUBIO: Well, as part of the alternative we were working on, there was a component where those who are honorably discharged in the service of this country would be allowed access to a legalization process fairly quickly. And I think the vast majority of Americans would agree with that. But that's not really -- that's an important point. And it's one that we should talk about. And it should certainly be part of any accommodation. It doesn't really cover that many people. I mean, at the end of the day it's not easy to get into the U.S. military. You can't just walk in and say I want to be in the Army.

I mean, they don't have to accept you. And it's not as easy as it once was. Their standards are pretty high. And not everyone can get in. So what about everybody else? That's what we're trying to tackle here is the fact that you do have young people that came in when they were 5 years old.

Some of them don't even know they're undocumented till they try to go to college and they're the valedictorian of their high school; they've been accepted to a Dartmouth or a Yale. And we're going to deport them. That doesn't seem right to people. So we do want to address that. But we can't do it in a way that ignores the fact that we have an illegal immigration problem.

BLITZER: Stand by for much more of my interview with Senator Marco Rubio. I'll ask him about Mitt Romney's public declaration that Rubio is being vetted as a possible vice presidential candidate.

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Let's get back to my interview now with Senator Marco Rubio on his new book and his chances of becoming Mitt Romney's vice presidential running mate.

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BLITZER: How did you feel in the past few days when Mitt Romney singled you out? You're the only one he's publicly acknowledged as being vetted as a potential vice presidential running mate.

RUBIO: Well, I don't pay a lot of attention to the back-and- forth -- it's like a sport up here, that stuff. But I've made a decision a couple months ago, Wolf, not to comment on the vice presidential process any more out of respect for Governor Romney and the work he's putting into that.

The only thing I can tell you definitively is that I am -- I know 100 percent without any doubt and with great certainty that Governor Romney is going to make a great choice for vice president.

BLITZER: Without commenting on the vice presidential running mate slot, do you think you're qualified, though, to be President of the United States?

RUBIO: Well, I'm qualified to be a U.S. senator, which is my job right now. And I think if I do a good job here in the Senate and continue to do a good job that people look at me and say, hey, this is someone that works and is serious about the issues. I may not agree with him on everything, but I know where he stands and he works hard on behalf of what he stands.

I think if I do that, I'll have plenty opportunities in the future to do things inside and outside of politics. So that's what I'm focused on.

BLITZER: You've really written a very personal book about yourself and your family coming to America from Cuba, "An American Son," but what was most powerful, at least in my opinion, and most moving was what you wrote about your dad. And, unfortunately, he passed away and he's not able to see you right now doing what you're doing.

What would you say to your dad right now if you could?

RUBIO: Well, I would just say that, you know, our version of the American dream, in terms of what the American dream's meant for our family -- and that's really the story I wanted to tell -- was that my parents were able to provide opportunities for me that they themselves didn't have.

And I hope what my dad can realize -- because my faith teaches me he can see what's going on, even -- not just on television -- is that his life meant something. It had a purpose. It opened doors for us that weren't open for him.

My mom is still here with us. Hopefully, she sees it the same way. Their hard work and their sacrifice, I know their dreams became impossible for them, but they opened a lot of doors for us and we'll always be grateful for that.

BLITZER: What's the most important thing you hope that readers of "An American Son" will emerge with? What thought do you want them to leave knowing about you?

RUBIO: Well, not just knowing about me but knowing about my family, is that the only reason why I've been able to have the opportunities I've had is because my parents worked very hard, they gave up a lot of things so that we could have a better life and because I was born an American son. And that's what the title of the book is about.

I think my parents -- I know my parents were once my age. They had dreams and hopes themselves. It became impossible for them. But things were possible for me that were impossible for them for one very profound reason, and that is because I am an American son.

BLITZER: I'm sure your mom is very, very proud. And I'm sure your dad -- and I assume you agree he's looking down -- he's very proud as well. It is an American dream that has come true for you. Thanks so much, Senator, for joining us.

RUBIO: Thank you, Wolf.

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