Pulled in 2 Directions, Marco Rubio Toughens on Immigration, A Little

MIAMI — A Latin singing duo had just finished warming up the crowd for Senator Marco Rubio on Sunday here when he looked out from the stage and asked if he might offer a few words in Spanish.

His presidential campaign had taken him far from home lately, to New Hampshire, Iowa and South Carolina, he said, racing through his words with the fluency of a native speaker. He was glad to be back.

But nothing better captured the differences between the cultural mixing bowl Mr. Rubio was born into in South Florida, and the white, rural, stridently conservative constituencies he is trying to win over, than when he started to talk about immigration.

Most of the 200 or so people listening to him, he observed, were themselves immigrants or first-generation Americans. One of them hooted proudly.

“I know this issue,” Mr. Rubio said, switching over to English. His parents, grandparents, in-laws and most of his neighbors were immigrants, he said. “I know the good, the bad, the ugly. I know the story of people who are here illegally, and it would break your heart. And I know the story of people that are here legally, and their stories would boil your blood.”

Mr. Rubio’s blood may be boiling for other reasons. This week, well-funded groups supporting former Gov. Jeb Bush and Senator Ted Cruz released ad campaigns accusing him of supporting amnesty for immigrants here illegally. In Iowa, mailboxes are filling with fliers that warn he would open up the borders to unfettered immigration. Mr. Cruz’s campaign is attacking him for supporting a decade-old Florida effort to help undocumented students afford college. “Why is Rubio lying about supporting in-state tuition for illegals?” a spokesman for Mr. Cruz asked this week.

By JEREMY W. PETERS for The New York Times
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