Sen. Marco Rubio lays out immigration strategy, denies rift with Jeb Bush

Republican presidential candidate and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio laid out his plans for immigration reform this weekend during an appearance on a Sunday morning talk show – saying that any moves need to be done in a piecemeal fashion, instead of the sweeping legislation proposed by President Barack Obama.

Speaking on CBS' "Face the Nation," Rubio said that securing the border and getting Congress to pass a bill that puts in place E-Verify, an entry-exit tracking to prevent visa overstays, would be his first move toward immigration reform if he won the presidency.

"Once we achieve that, step two would be we would modernize our legal immigration system – [make it] less family-based, more merit-based," he said. "And then the third step would be to pass the bill that goes to the 10 million people that are here or 12 million that are here illegally."

Rubio added, "If they have been here for longer than a decade, they have to pass a background check, they have to learn English, they have to pay taxes, they have to pay a fine. And they would get a work permit."

During the interview, the Florida lawmaker spoke on a number of issues, from gay marriage ("I believe that sexual preference is something that people are born with") to Iran ("Iran's hegemonic ambitions present a threat to our homeland").

He was also questioned about his relationship with presumed presidential rival, Jeb Bush. The former Florida governor once viewed Rubio as a protégé, but ties between the two politicians have become strained as campaign season ramps up.

For his part, Rubio downplayed reports of animosity between the two and noted that there are many people running for the Republican nomination.

"There comes a point in time where if you have an opportunity to serve your country legitimately, a legitimate opportunity to serve your country as its highest office, especially someone like me that feels a tremendous debt to America, it's an opportunity I had to take seriously," Rubio said. "But at the end of the day, it won't change how I feel about Governor Bush. He will remain my friend and someone I admire, both personally and politically."

Rubio's interview coincided with a report in Politico describing Rubio's mega-donor Norman Braman, an 82-year old South Florida magnate who owns the Philadelphia Eagles and strongly dislikes Jeb Bush, as "the worst kind of political enemy: He's highly motivated, civic-minded and in possession of unlimited resources" and has a history of throwing his money behind political candidates.

Braman's antipathy for Bush – and subsequent support of Rubio – stems from Bush vetoing $2 million in state funds that had been allocated for the Braman Breast Cancer Institute.

"Who the hell is against breast cancer research, especially with what he allowed to become law?" Braman told Politico.

For his part, Rubio has been on Braman's radar – and donation list – since the now-presidential candidate was ascending the ranks of the Florida legislature. Rubio dedicated an entire paragraph of the acknowledgments in his memoir to Braman and added that the billionaire had become a father-like figure to him.

Braman's "advice, interest in my growth as a father and husband and pride in my accomplishments remind me of the role my grandfather and father once played," Rubio wrote.

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