Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., is believed to be a 2016 presidential candidate. He is one of eight bipartisan senators working on a 2013 immigration bill. Reuters

Mitt Romney and the national Republican Party's effort to appeal to Latinos is becoming a balancing act between the party's anti-immigration wing and those who want to compete with Democrats on policy important to an ever-growing voting bloc.

On Thursday, Sen. Marco Rubio, a Mitt Romney backer, fleshed out the Republicans' answer to the Democrats' DREAM Act, a proposal with support from President Barack Obama that offers a pathway to citizenship for some immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as young children.

Rubio, a Cuban-American, said at a National Journal forum that the Republican version would not fall within that criticism from conservatives staunchly against amnesty, according to Talking Points Memo.

It takes non-immigrant visas and applies it to children who have grown up in this country, who we spent thousands of dollars educating ... [and] allows them to continue to contribute to this country, Rubio said, as quoted by TPM.

With legal status, he explained, these immigrants can work toward citizenship by accessing the existing route that is now in place.

I would hope we could convince [Romney] to support a concept like this, Rubio said, according to the National Journal. I think it's something that would unite this country.

Romney, who is tempering his hard-line stance in immigration, may be sensitive to the need to support a policy that can attract Latinos to his campaign.

Latinos overwhelmingly support the Democrats' plan. Obama also bests Romney among Latino voters, an important component for a reelection campaign that could hinge on the outcome of Western swing states such as Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico and Nevada.

We have to get Hispanic voters to vote for our party, Romney said at a Sunday closed-door fundraiser.

At the fundraiser, Romney called for a Republican DREAM Act, having said he would veto the one proposed by Democrats, as it offers citizenship to college-enrolled immigrants who have lived in the U.S. for most of their lives.

Republicans who want their version of the DREAM Act need to walk a fine line to avoid a potentially high-profile clash with anti-immigration advocates, particularly Kris Kobach, the nationally-known architect of Arizona's self-deportation law and legal mind behind the anti-immigration movement.

Romney stumped with Kobach in the GOP presidential primary, but the campaign has since downgraded him to supporter from adviser; Kobach maintains he is still advising the Romney team.

Kobach told the Washington Post Wednesday that he was unaware of Rubio's plan but said giving lawful status to illegal aliens en masse is unacceptable.

I'd absolutely reject any proposal that would give a path to legal status for illegal aliens en masse, Kobach said. That is what amnesty is. I do not expect [Romney] to propose or embrace amnesty.