Responding to harsh criticism from Tea Party activists and conservatives, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) defended his support of the current immigration bill on the Senate floor Wednesday. He appealed directly to the people who helped him get elected, saying “their opinions really matter to me.”

“Over the last few days, I have received numerous emails and calls from conservatives and tea party activists from across the country regarding immigration,” Rubio began. “And they are increasingly unhappy about the immigration reform proposal in the Senate.”

Marco Rubio Defends Himself Against Tea Party Attacks on Senate Floor

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., speaks at the Faith and Freedom Coalition “Road to Majority” conference in Washington, Thursday, June 13, 2013. Credit: AP

He said conservatives are not against the immigration bill because they are “anti-immigrant,” but rather because they believe the U.S. has a right to secure its borders and a right to enforce federal immigration law.

Rubio defended the Senate’s immigration bill, claiming that there has been “false claims” about the legislation.

“This proposal mandates the most ambitious border and interior security measures in our nation’s history,” he said. “For example, it requires and funds the completion of 700 miles of real border fence, it adds 20,000 new border agents, it details a specific technology plan for each sector of the border, it requires e-Verify for every employer in America and it crates a tracking system to identify people who overstay their visas.”

He said people living illegally in the U.S. are already enjoying “de-facto amnesty.”

“To hear the worry, anxiety, and growing anger in the voices of so many people who helped me get elected to the Senate, who I agree with on virtually every other issue, has been a real trial or me,” he said.

However, Rubio argued he promised to “fight to stop what is bad for America.”

“I simply wasn’t going to leave it to Democrats alone to try to figure out how to fix it,” he said, adding that he is doing what he honestly believes is the best thing for America.

He also promised to continue fighting for “real tax reform,” lowering the national debt and balancing the budget, reducing regulation and other conservative policies, including repealing Obamacare.

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