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Rubio: Now Is the Time to Pass Immigration Reform



As the "Gang of Eight" immigration bill cleared its first major hurdle to advance to the Senate floor, Senator Marco Rubio urged a bipartisan approach to pass the legislation.

"One thing is to have a bill and another thing is to have a law that can pass the House and the Senate," he said on CNBC's "The Kudlow Report." "There will be changes made to this bill."

The Senate Judiciary Committee passed the legislation late Tuesday night in 13-5 vote. Three Republicans, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), joined the panel's ten Democrats in favor of the bill.

(Read More: Obama lauds immigration bill vote, hopes for improvements)

"Within the conservative movement in this country there's a debate happening about what the immigration policy of the United States should be and the best way to address it," Rubio said.

A leading voice in the bipartisan "Gang of Eight," Rubio said he is willing to work with conservatives who have voiced opposition on the bill.

"Primarily the complaint seems to be about the size and scope of the bill," he said. "They think it does too much in one single piece of legislation. It's a concern that I've shared in the past and, quite frankly, continue to share."

"On the other hand," he added. "Now is the time to act on this issue and get it solved, because we can't leave it the way it is. The status quo is just as bad."

Rubio said many conservatives are prepared to accept the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently living in the country if the law can prevent a future wave of illegal immigration.

"That's a very reasonable request, a very reasonable position, and one that I think we need to be able to accomplish if we want this to become a law," he said.

The Florida Senator also appealed to conservatives who have denounced the bill saying it would bankrupt the country's entitlement programs.

(Read More: Conservatives Spar over Economics of Immigration Reform)

"I don't think we should allow people who have illegally violated the laws of the United States on immigration to have access to these programs," he said.

Rubio said the Senate Judiciary Committee's amendment loosening requirements for high-tech jobs is one critical example of comprehensive immigration reform as a means to fuel economic growth.

"Virtually every group that's looked at immigration reform except for one has said that immigration reform would be a net positive for the economy of the United States," he said.

(Read More: Heritage Study Prices Immigration Reform at $6 Trillion)

The economic argument is one of the primary reasons Rubio said he supports comprehensive immigration reform to modernize the current system.

"You have people here in this country illegally now that are not paying taxes that will be paying income tax and revenue to the government," he said. "They will also be given the opportunity to improve themselves, to go up the economic ladder to become net contributors to our economic life in this country as consumers and buyers."

"Legal immigration, done right for this country with the proper enforcement mechanisms, should be a net positive for the United States," he said.

—By CNBC Associate Producer Elizabeth Schulze. Follow her on Twitter: @ESchulze9

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