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Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) is assigning himself a tall task: creating conservative consensus on a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, and pooling knowledge among local governments and U.S. agencies to foolproof American border security–with “significant progress” to be made in the first half of this year.

The Republican rising star, who spoke with Human Events on Monday, is plotting his second foray into immigration reform. Prior to the election, Rubio floated a Republican alternative to the DREAM Act that got a mixed reception within his own party, and was ultimately overshadowed by President Barack Obama’s executive order granting some 1.7 million young illegal immigrants a stay from deportation and temporary authorization to work in the country.

Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential nominee, opted to support a more mainstream conservative plan for immigration in his rhetoric–the concept of self-deportation, entailing robust enforcement of citizenship requirements for work and participation in other elements of American civil society.