Rubio warns that Obama could expand deferred deportation to cover millions more immigrants

Demonstrators march against amnesty for illegal aliens, during a rally against the immigration reform bill in Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington July 15, 2013. The U.S. Senate passed sweeping immigration legislation at the end of June. But the legislation's fate is unclear in the Republican-controlled House, where Republicans are adamant against approving the Senate version of legislation and are instead talking about passing several bills that address various immigration problems, but not necessarily legalizing the estimated 11 million undocumented residents. REUTERS/Jose Luis Magana (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS SOCIETY IMMIGRATION CIVIL UNREST)
Demonstrators march against amnesty for undocumented workers on July 15 in Washington. (Reuters / Jose Luis Magana)

Thursday marks the one-year anniversary of the start of President Obama’s deferred deportation program for immigrants brought to the country illegally as children, which he authorized through executive authority last summer. As The Washington Post reported Tuesday, the Obama administration has granted more than 400,000 of those immigrants temporary legal status to work or go to school without fear of deportation.

Now, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) is warning that the administration is likely to dramatically expand the program to cover the majority of the country’s 11 million undocumented immigrants if Congress fails to pass comprehensive immigration reform.

Rubio has been under fire as a key architect of a Senate-approved plan that would boost border security, expand the number of work visas for and offer a 13-year path to citizenship for immigrants who are in the nation illegally. As he defends his position to conservatives who oppose offering potential citizenship to those immigrants, Rubio argues that Obama can take executive action that would allow the immigrants to remain here legally -- no matter what Congress does.

“I believe that this president tempted will be tempted, if nothing happens in Congress, to issue an executive order as he did for the Dream Act kids a year ago, where he basically legalizes 11 million people by the sign of a pen,” Rubio said in an interview Tuesday on WFLA's “The Morning Show with Preston Scott.”

If that were to happen, Rubio warned, Republicans would not get the provisions they have been fighting for in the immigration debate, such as billions of dollars to strengthen border security and a workplace “e-Verify” system to help ensure that employers do not hire undocumented workers.

“I have tried to come up as best as possible, given who controls the Senate, with a way to start the conversation to at least address some of these issues,” Rubio said. “It only gets worse as times goes on.”

Immigration advocates have lobbied the administration to halt deportations for all but those who commit serious crimes or are repeat offenders, but so far the president has said he is focused on comprehensive reform and cannot stop enforcing the law.

“Existing law does not help us solve the problem of having 11 million human beings living among us. … Unless we’re going to try to round up and deport 11 million people, something not even the most vociferous opponents of the bill proposed, we’ll have to  address this one way or another,” Rubio said in the interview. “We can’t leave it the way it is because a year from now we could find ourselves with all 11 million people here legally through an executive order from the president.”

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Ruth Tam · August 13, 2013