Florida Sen. Marco Rubio says immigration is a federal, not state, matter.AP

Marco Rubio called Arizona’s controversial immigration law an understandable move for the state – which borders Mexico and whose officials said they were frustrated by federal inaction on immigration – but that it is not a model for the nation.

“I understand why the people in Arizona did what they did,” the Florida U.S. Senator said at an event in Washington D.C. Thursday, “Specifically, Arizona has a very unique circumstance – it’s not just workers coming over the border, you have guns, you have drugs. . .there’s a humanitarian crisis.”

But, he said in no uncertain terms, “I do not believe the law in Arizona should be a model for the country.”

“In essence, I don’t believe Florida should have an Arizona law,” Rubio said, “I don’t advocate that other states have an Arizona law.”

The comments by Rubio, considered a strong prospect for GOP vice presidential candidate, come a week before the U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear arguments on the some of the most divisive provisions of Arizona’s SB 1070 law, which criminalizes being in the United States illegally. 

The law, which then set into motion the introduction or passage of anti-illegal immigration laws in several other states, calls on police to check the immigration status of people they encounter who they believe may be in the country illegally, among other things.

Rubio said that formulating and enforcing immigration policy is a federal responsibility, not a state one.

“I believe the United States (federal government) should deal with the immigration issue.”

The U.S. Department of Justice, which is challenging Arizona’s law before the Supreme Court, argues the same thing. The agency argues that the state is overstepping its bounds by coming up with its own law regarding what is purely a federal matter.

I don’t advocate that other states have an Arizona law.

– Marco Rubio, U.S. Senator

Arizona officials, like those of other states that have passed laws seeking to crack down on illegal immigration, say they are forced to come up with their own measures and enforcement programs because the federal government has failed to address the matter.

Rubio was careful not to outright slam Arizona for its law, which has been praised by many GOP officials, including presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who in particular touted Arizona’s provision for verifying workers’ immigration status.

Rubio said: “I believe that Arizona and states like Arizona had a constitutional right to do what they did.”

But when asked about Alabama’s illegal immigration law, which is stricter than Arizona’s, Rubio expressed concern about the detrimental consequences of such measures on industries – such as agriculture –  that rely on immigrants.

“We’re going to learn that they’re going to lead us to the conclusion that these are issues that are better handled at the federal level because immigration is a federal issue.”

Last year, Rubio said he feared that the Arizona law would encourage ethnic and racial profiling, and put police officers in a position they were not equipped to handle.

On Thursday, Romney’s campaign sought to clarify reports that the former Massachusetts governor thought Arizona’s immigration law should be replicated in states nationwide. The campaign stressed that Romney meant that he saw its employee verification provision as a model, not the law in its entirety.

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Elizabeth Llorente can be reached elizabeth.llorente@foxnewslatino.com

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