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CORALVILLE - Amid criticism from opponents that he's flip-flopped on his views of illegal immigration, on Monday presidential hopeful Marco Rubio told a standing room only crowd he doesn't support amnesty for those who are in the United States illegally.
Rubio's stance toward immigration has been examined and criticized in campaign ads by Republican competitors former Gov. Jeb Bush and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, accusing him of supporting amnesty for illegal immigrants. South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who delivered the Republican Party's response to last week's State of the Union address, also said Rubio has supported amnesty in the past, though she later said she misspoke.
But during recent campaign stops in Iowa, Rubio has toughened up his immigration rhetoric, calling for 20,000 new border agents, for Congress to finish 700 miles of fencing and walls between Mexico and the U.S. and for stronger measures to prevent visitors from overstaying Visas.
'We're not going to have amnesty,” Rubio said. 'There has to be consequences for violating our immigration laws and there will be. If you're a criminal alien, you're going to be immediately deported. If you're a sanctuary city, you'll lose your federal funding.”
He added: 'Enforcing our immigration laws is not anti-immigrant. It's just what sovereign countries do. All of them do it. We're going to do it when I'm president.”
However, before his meet-and greet at the Coralville Marriott, Rubio told reporters he's open to some illegal immigrants receiving Green Cards but remained silent on whether they'd ever be able to become citizens.
'Once illegal immigration is under control, I think there is a consensus that we should do something about certain groups of people who have been here for a long time who have not violated the law, can pass a background check, have paid taxes. They'll pay a fine, and get a work permit,” Rubio said. 'What happens after ten years on that work permit? That's what there will be a debate about. I'm open to them getting a Green Card but you have to, obviously, you have to apply for it.”
Rubio's work on a 2013 immigration reform bill in Congress has provided further fodder for his Republican opponents in campaign ads but the candidate said his positions have changed because the situation has changed.
'This is a complicated but important issue,” Rubio said, saying attempts by ISIS at infiltration causes a need for stronger immigration policies.
'When I'm president, if we're not 100 percent sure who you are and why you're coming, you will not get into the United States,” he said.