Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who has been making the media rounds as he promotes his newly released autobiography, An American Son, appeared on perhaps the unlikeliest of networks Monday night: Spanish-language giant Univisión.
Rubio and Univisión had been at odds for months over a well-publicized dispute involving a story the network aired about Rubio's brother-in-law drug bust when the Republican senator was 16 years old. Insiders said the network offered to soften the story if Rubio accepted an interview with Univisión star anchor Jorge Ramos; Univisión denied that a quid pro quo took place.
Nothing heals old wounds like time and book tours, though, and Rubio sat down with Ramos to tape an interview last week before President Barack Obama announced that his administration would halt the deportations of young immigrants brought into the country as children and allow them to apply for work permits. Rubio had been talking about an alternative to the Dream Act, stalled legislation in Congress that would have allowed those immigrants to stay and set them on a path to U.S. citizenship.
Ramos begins by asking Rubio if he thinks Obama is a "socialist." "I try not to use" that term, Rubio says, "because really, he's not Hugo Chávez."
Then, Ramos asks, could Rubio someday become president himself? "Well, that wasn't the purpose of the book, nor do I have that particular ambition," Rubio says.
Finally, Ramos gets to the crux of the interview: Rubio's views on immigration, which, Ramos tells him, put him at odds with a majority of Hispanics because the senator, according to Ramos, backs Arizona's anti-immigrant law, opposes the Dream Act, opposes legalizing undocumented immigrants and supports setting English as the official language of the United States.
Rubio counters, however, that that is not a correct description of his views.
"I support Arizona's right to have a law like that, but I don't think it should be a model for the country," he says. "I want to help those kids who are here, undocumented ... I just don't support the way in which the Dream Act does it. I do want to create a legal inmigration system that works."
Democrats, he adds, "control the process" and "do not accept any idea that is not their own."
"My parents were immigrants for economic reasons, though economic reasons in Cuba were always political, even before Fidel Castro," Rubio continues. But you only defend legal immigrants, Ramos says. "I defend illegal immigrants, too," Rubio says. "This can't be the only country in the world that doesnt' have an immigration system" where laws are followed.
Ramos points to a passage in another newly released book about Rubio, Manuel Roig-Franzia's The Rise of Marco Rubio, which notes that Rubio's grandfather was at one point ordered deported. "Your grandfather did receive the support and generosity of this country," Ramos says. Isn't it hypocritical to have a family member who was in the country illegally benefit from the U.S.'s largesse but not support helping current illegal immigrants, he asks?
"That's a good question," Rubio responds. "I do defend them ...Not everybody entered the country in the same way."
The interview wraps up by teasing to part two on Tuesday, in which Rubio responds directly to the network's story about his brother-in-law.
"What happened with Univisión in that case was something regrettable, and I think it's going to remain as a very black mark in the history of the Univisión network, of Univisión news," he says.
Update: Read Univisión's transcript here.