(CNSNews.com) - Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), one of eight senators who co-sponored an all-encompassing immigration bill in 2013, now favors a piecemeal approach to that issue.
"Anyone who believes that we can move on this in some massive piece of legislation at this point...they're delusional if they think we can move forward on this with one massive piece of legislation," Rubio told Fox News's Sean Hannity Thursday night.
All along, Rubio has insisted on border security as the first step, as well as a mandatory e-verify system, so illegal immigrants, including people who overstay their visas, can't get jobs:
Well, first of all, let's start with what you asked, the question about how to secure the border," Rubio told Hannity.
"We know how to do that. And we've done it in some parts of the border, and not enough parts of the border, because people are still coming in. It requires more fencing and more -- more -- you know, building a wall. But it also requires more sensors, more personnel, et cetera.
"That alone won't be enough, though, because as I've said repeatedly, four out of ten illegal immigrants entered the country on a visa and they overstayed it. That's why you need a mandatory e-verify system so you can't get a job if you're here illegally. That's why you need an entry/exit tracking system.
"And what I've said repeatedly is until you do that, and it's in place and it's actually working, you're not going to be able to do anything else. And anyone who believes that we can move on this in some massive piece of legislation at this point, after two illegal actions that you've outlined and the problem that happened at the border a year ago with minors, they're delusional if they think we can move forward on this with one massive piece of legislation.
"Now, you asked about the people that are here illegally. Look, I think that if we do that, the first thing that I just outlined, the border security, and it's working -- and then we have to something else first, too, and that is we have to modernize the legal immigration system. We can't continue to allow people to come here based on family connection. It has to be based on merit, on what you can contribute economically.
"After we've done those two things, I think people will be reasonable about, what do you do with someone who's not a criminal? If they're a criminal, they have to leave. But if they're not a criminal and they're going to -- and they've been here a long time, they have to -- you know, they're willing to pay a fine, pay taxes, they get a work permit.
"And that's all they'll have for a very long time. And that's -- and some people say forever. I don't even think you can get to that part of the debate until you've done the other two things. Let's see how the other two things work first, is what people are saying."
The immigration overhaul bill passed by the Senate on June 27, 2013, included a pathway to citizenship for illegal aliens. The bill died in the Republican-controlled House.
The day before the bill passed in the Senate, Rubio defended it in a message to conservatives who -- as Rubio put it -- "are increasingly unhappy about the immigration reform proposal in the Senate."
Conservatives generally favor border security, but not a pathway to citizenship for millions of people who came here illegally.
Here's how Rubio defended that provision on June 26, 2013.
The Senate bill "deals with those who are illegally here now in a reasonable but responsible way. Right now, those here illegally are living in de facto amnesty. They are unregistered, many pay no taxes, and few will ever pay any price for having violated our laws. Under this bill they will have to come forward, pass background checks, pay a fine, start paying taxes, and be ineligible for welfare, food stamps or ObamaCare.
"In return, the only thing they get is a temporary work permit. And they can’t renew it in six years unless they can prove that they have been holding a job and paying taxes. For at least ten years, that is all they can have.
"And after all that, they cannot even apply for permanent status until the fence is built, the border patrol agents are hired, and the border security technology, E-Verify and the tracking system are fully in place.
"Despite all these measures, however, opposition from many conservatives has grown significantly in the last few weeks," Rubio conceded.