Republican leaders already have outlined an escape plan should they need to distance themselves from the immigration overhaul. Rubio said he would support legislation outlining a path to legal status only if it first emphasized enforcement and border security. As for the political risks, he said there are more important things at stake.

"I haven't done a political analysis of this, guys," Rubio told reporters Thursday. "I just think this country has a problem and we have to address it once and for all and if we don't fix it, it's going to get worse."

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Peoples reported from Boston.

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