A group of Dreamers confronted Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) at an event Monday evening over his support to end the deferred action program that is helping undocumented youth get work permits and live without fear of deportation.
The Associated Press reported that Rubio responded by saying, I actually sympathize with what theyre saying.
Rubio, whose parents left Cuba in the 1950s, then went on to talk about how it was like to grow up in a family of immigrants during his keynote address at the fourth annual Faith and Freedom BBQ. The fundraising event, hosted by U.S. Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.), was held in Anderson, which is one of the most conservative cities in South Carolina.
CNN reported that Rubio also told the Dreamers:
We are a sovereign country that deserves to have immigration laws. Youre doing harm to your own cause because you dont have a right to illegally immigrate to the United States.
Rubio has said he wants to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that President Barack Obama enacted in 2012. The federal program has provided temporary relief from deportation and work permits to more than 587,000 undocumented young immigrants who came to the United States as children.
A YouTube video posted Monday night by United We Dream, the nations largest immigrant youth-led organization, shows four Dreamers from Florida interrupted Rubios speech in South Carolina. They stood in the back of the room and shouted that Rubio wants to deport Dreamers like them while holding a sign that read Rubio me quiere deportar.
Another Dreamer, who is identified as Oliver Merino, is shown being escorted out. In the video, Merino said that a man put his hands around his neck as an attempt to choke him moments before he was escorted out. He also said Dreamers will continue to follow Rubio wherever he goes to make sure that he knows our community stands together.
The video shows the Dreamers were booed, and people yelled phrases like send them back and go home.
Felipe Sousa-Rodriguez, deputy managing director for United We Dream, explained in the video why he and other Dreamers from Florida went all the way to South Caroline to confront Rubio.
Hes trying to take away our DACA, Sousa-Rodriguez said, referring to Rubio. I am a DACAmented Dreamer. That means that I will get deported, and I will lose all the benefits that DACA has given to my life, my family and my community.
Rubio was crafting legislation for Dreamers that was similar to the DACA program two years ago. He was also part of the Gang of Eight senators who wrote the Senate immigration reform bill last year.
But his support for an overhaul of the nations immigration system ended up hurting him among conservative voters. This comes at a time when Rubio is seen as a potential Republican presidential candidate in 2016, though he has not said whether hell run for president.