Republican Sen. Marco Rubio accused President Barack Obama on Tuesday of ignoring Congress and the Constitution by implementing new immigration rules by executive order.
In an election-year move, Obama announced last week a moratorium on deportations of younger illegal immigrants who have led law-abiding lives. He said those who qualify — as many as 800,000 immigrants — could be issued work permits. The policy would be in effect for two years.
"The biggest problem I have is that it ignores the Congress and the Constitution," Rubio, R-Fla., told CNBC's "Squawk Box."
"I think it needs to have more safeguards in place," said Rubio, who has been mentioned as a possible vice presidential running mate of Mitt Romney.
"I think it’s important that the kids who are getting this approved, that they came here at a certain age and lived here for a certain period of time, I think these are things that are important. I also think it has to be a permanent strategy, not a two-year deal. This approach requires a long-term solution."
For the past year, Rubio has been working on changes to the proposed DREAM Act, which would establish a path toward citizenship for young illegal immigrants who have attended college or served in the military.
"My biggest concern," Rubio said, "is that by doing this this way, the president has undermined and set back the hopes of getting a long-term solution done on this issue."
Romney has opposed the DREAM Act, and criticized Obama's action as an election-year stunt to win Hispanic voters. However, during an appearance Sunday on CBS's "Face the Nation," he stopped short of saying he'd repeal Obama's move if he were elected president in November.
Rubio, the son of Cuban immigrants, told CNBC that Romney is "in favor of a legal immigration system that works."
"I think if we had a legal immigration system that was modern and worked, our illegal immigration problem would be diminished and easier to deal with," Rubio said. "I think that’s been his position on it. I think he’s also expressed openmindedness about figuring out an accommodation for certain kids who meet this criteria."
Rubio declined to answer questions about his status as a possible runningmate of Romney, including whether at age 41 he had enough experience to be vice president.
"I have no doubt that I am qualified to serve in the United States Senate, which is the job that I have," he said. "Obviously I get more experience every day. There are issues that I are new to me that I have not dealt with when I was a state officeholder. On the other hand, some of these things we deal with are not necessarily rocket science in terms of what our economy and country needs to move forward. What it basically needs is a basic sense of governance that’s stable and competent. It needs a tax code that’s predictable and permanent. It needs regulations that are affordable. I mean these are not complicated concepts."
He said the nation's immigration situation was outdated and in desparate need for reform.
"On the front end we have a larger immigration issue in this country that has to do with the fact that on the one hand we have rampant illegal immigration and it has to be dealt with, and people are rightfully concerned about it. On the other hand, we have 21st century immigration needs in this country and our immigration system is not modern. It does not reflect the economic needs and realities of the 21st century.
"Related to that issue but separate is the plight of young people who were brought to this nation at a very young age, 5, 6, 7, 8 years of age, have grown up here their entire lives, are undocumented — many of these kids don’t even know they are undocumented until they graduate high school. Some of these kids, they’re the valedictorians of their high school, and we’re going to deport them. That doesn’t make sense either."
"I hope what the president’s done doesn’t set us back," Rubio said.