Marco Rubio's family immigration story addressed in new books

Senator Marco Rubio, R-Fla., talks to Norah O'Donnell.
CBS News
CBS News

(CBS News) Since Republican Marco Rubio won his 2010 Senate contest and rose to prominence in the GOP, his family's immigration story has been the subject of interest -- and it became the subject of some controversy last fall after discrepancies were revealed between Rubio's version of the story and what immigration records showed.

Rubio addresses that conflict in his new memoir, American Son, to be published Tuesday by Sentinel. A separate biography of the senator, The Rise of Marco Rubio by Washington Post reporter Manuel Roig-Franzia, also addresses the history of the Rubio family's immigration to the United States. That book will also come out Tuesday, published by Simon and Schuster.

Rubio initially said his parents fled Cuba and the Castro regime in 1959, but immigration records show that Mario and Oriales Rubio immigrated in 1956.

Ahead of his book's release, Rubio told USA Today that he didn't know the details of his parents' story until he began research for his book. "I should have known," he said. However, Rubio said it is ultimately irrelevant whether his parents fled the Castro regime or left Cuba before the Marxist leader came into power.

Rubio: GOP has work to do to win over Hispanics

Rubio talks about his childhood with CBS News' Norah O'Donnell in video to the left.

"Exile is not a time frame," he told the newspaper. "Exile is an experience. It's a sentiment. For my parents, it's the very real pain of being permanently separated from the nation of their birth."

Rubio similarly told CBS News chief White House correspondent Norah O'Donnell on CBS Sunday Morning that he wasn't trying enhance his biography.

"I don't know how - what that adds to the biography," Rubio said. "I mean - and maybe some in the media nationally that analyze this don't fully understand it. But here in Miami among Cuban exiles, the fact that they came in 1956 doesn't change anything for anyone."

Rubio touts his family's story as the embodiment of the American dream. "I've been able to accomplish things professionally that they were not able to," Rubio said of his parents and grandfather, because "God has blessed me with the opportunity to be an American son."

In The Rise of Marco Rubio, excerpted in the Washington Post today, Roig-Franzia explains how Rubio's grandfather, Pedro Victor, came to the United States and was for a time in the country illegally.

Victor first came to the United States in 1956, the same year as his daughter and son-in-law. Unable to find work, he moved back to Cuba and took a government job. His circumstances compelled Victor to go back to the U.S. in 1962, but he didn't have a visa -- in fact, Cubans couldn't procure a visa to go to the United States after U.S. consulates in Cuba were closed in January 1961.

Still, Victor was detained and ordered to return to Cuba. He ended up staying, which Roig-Franzia explains this way:

Any personal dramas that a sixty-three-year-old man from Cuba and his family were experiencing were about to be eclipsed by something that frightened an entire nation. On October 14, a U2 spy plane captured images of a missile site in western Cuba. The discovery became public eight days later, when President Kennedy went on television to address the nation.

Once that news broke, how could anyone have faulted Pedro Victor for staying? The course of world events was making it almost inconceivable that he would be forced to leave. Commercial air travel to Cuba was suspended. The world was on the brink of nuclear war for another six days, until Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev announced on Radio Moscow that the missiles would be removed.

Victor ultimately received legal status in 1967.