Rubio: I would end Obama immigration program that protects some children

Story highlights

  • Marco Rubio reiterated Wednesday that he would end the program that shields undocumented immigrants brought here as children
  • "It will have to end. It can't be the permanent policy of the United States," Rubio said

Washington (CNN)Marco Rubio reiterated Wednesday that he would end the program that shields undocumented immigrants brought here as children, a signature but controversial achievement of President Barack Obama.

Rubio told reporters twice in New Hampshire that he would do so even if Congress does not put an end to the policy, guaranteed by a 2012 executive order, through comprehensive immigration reform.
"It will have to end. It can't be the permanent policy of the United States," Rubio told CNN's Dana Bash after a town hall in Nashua. "I've said that consistently. I don't think we should be signing new people up to it. If you haven't applied by now, it's been three years, almost four, and I don't think, when it comes time to extend it, we should extend it."
    Immigration issues remain one of the Florida senator's biggest liabilities with the conservative base, and Rubio has walked a tight rope when explaining his current positions. As recently as 2013 Rubio backed immigration reform that would include a path to citizenship only to abandon it ahead of his presidential bid. He now says he believes immigration must be solved as part of a three-step, piecemeal process.
    In New Hampshire, Rubio called the deferred action program, or "DACA," an "unconstitutional policy."
    "I'm a supporter of immigration reform. I'd like to see us make progress on that issue, but DACA cannot be the permanent policy of the United States," Rubio told Bash. "I opposed it when the President announced it and I've been consistent ever since."
    Democratic groups on Wednesday were gleeful to highlight Rubio's comments, which they perceive as a liability in a possible general election. Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton tweeted that he was "wrong."
    "We should not put 650,000+ promising young people at risk for deportation. Sen. Rubio is wrong on this. -H," she tweeted.