Marco Rubio discusses immigration in New Hampshire stop

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About 40 New Hampshire residents got a taste of U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio’s views on immigration and combating homegrown terrorism Thursday – views they might hear more of if the Florida senator decides to run for president in 2016.

Rubio discussed both during a stop at Next Step Bionics and Prosthetics in Manchester with Republican gubernatorial candidate Walt Havenstein. He then went to a private fundraiser in Amherst with congressional candidate Marilinda Garcia. Rubio stumped with U.S. Senate candidate Scott Brown earlier this month.

Rubio says he’ll make a decision about whether to run for president later this year or early next. He’s traveled around the country to prop up Republican candidates this fall, including in Iowa and South Carolina, also early states in the presidential nominating process.

“New Hampshire always has a very vibrant political culture, so we’re always happy to come,” he said.

Rubio took heat from some Republicans for sponsoring a comprehensive immigration reform bill in 2013 that included border security measures as well as a path to citizenship for people already here. Amnesty has become a potent issue in New Hampshire races. Brown has accused U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of supporting amnesty in part because of her support for that bill. Garcia also faced charges of supporting amnesty in her primary.

Rubio now says he doesn’t support a comprehensive approach, given the border crisis that emerged over the summer and the politically charged nature of the issue. The country must tackle security at the border and reform the immigration system to be merit based, not family based, before Congress can determine what to do with people who are already here, he said. If those two things are done, Rubio said he believes Americans can have a “reasonable conversation” about the future of the millions of people already living here illegally.

“I don’t think Washington, now or in the foreseeable future, is conducive to doing a massive piece of legislation on any topic,” he said.

In response to a question about Wednesday’s shooting at the Canadian parliament, Rubio said the United States must have a conversation about how best to confront home-grown terrorism. Law enforcement and the government need to find a way to better monitor radicalization of U.S. citizens inside the country while protecting people’s privacy and civil liberties, he said.

“It’s a real threat that we’re going to have to put a lot of time into,” he said.