It wasnt long ago that Florida Sen. Marco Rubio championed for a comprehensive immigration reform bill and worked on another bill to give undocumented youth a legal status. But these days, the Republican senators views on immigration have changed quite a bit.
Now, Rubio is convinced that a comprehensive immigration reform billlike the one he helped draft in the Senate last year as a member of the Gang of Eighthas no chance of passing in Congress. He told The New York Times on Tuesday that he is embracing the House approach of addressing the issue in pieces, starting with a bill to ramp up border security.
We have to honestly be able to say that illegal immigration is under control, the freshman senator and potential 2016 presidential candidate said.
Rubio went a step further and predicted that Republicans would take up a bill to secure the border early next year if the GOP keeps a majority in the House and gains a majority in the Senate in the November general elections.
His comments came on the same day that he wrote a letter to President Barack Obama.
The son of Cuban-American immigrants wrote that he has grown increasingly alarmed by the news that the Obama administration was considering executive actions to protect millions of undocumented immigrants from deportation and allow them to get work permits. Such actions, Rubio said, would close the door to any chance of making progress on immigration reform for the foreseeable future.
Rubio goes after DACA
In the letter, Rubio also expressed his opposition to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that Obama announced in 2012 to protect undocumented youth from deportation and give them work permits. He said the DACA program was a major impediment to passage of the kind of immigration reform our nation needs.
No matter what we tried to do to institute meaningful enforcement measures in the Senate bill, opponents pointed to DACA as evidence of your unwillingness to enforce the law, Rubio wrote in the letter to Obama. They argued that no matter what we wrote into law on enforcement, your administration would simply ignore it.
Interestingly, the DACA program is very similar to a bill Rubio began drafting months before Obama announced the DACA program. Rubios bill wouldve provided a path to legal status for undocumented young immigrants who came to the United States as children. Now, Rubio wants the Obama administration to stop accepting new applications for the DACA program.
Earlier this week, a group of Dreamers from Florida traveled to South Caroline where they confronted Rubio over his latest attacks on the DACA program at a fundraising event he was headlining. 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.
The room, packed with conservatives, erupted into boos. Rubio, who once said he wanted to address the issue of these kids in a humanitarian way, scolded the Dreamers as they were being escorted out.
We are a sovereign country that deserves to have immigration laws, the Republican senator told the Dreamers, as the crowd cheered him on. Youre doing harm to your own cause because you dont have a right to illegally immigrate to the United States.
He later told The New York Times he understands the human, compelling stories of families being separated by deportations but that the law has been violated and they knew there would be consequences when they violated the law.
We cant trust him
Rubios reaction to the protesting Dreamers is not sitting well with immigration advocates, many of whom once praised him for his courage to push for the Senate immigration reform bill despite the criticism he received from tea party members.
Theyve accused Rubio of pandering to the right-wing members of his party who seek to maximum deportations of Dreamers and their families.
For him to say that we dont have the right to illegally immigrate to the country, goes against what he has said in the past to our community and to myself personally, stated Felipe Sousa-Rodriguez, who was among the Florida Dreamers who confronted Rubio. This makes it clear to the Latino community that we cant trust him. He will sell us out to highest bidder.
The pro-immigration group Americas Voice pointed out that Rubio once graced the cover of Time magazine as the Republican Savior who could help build bridges between Latinos and the Republican Party. But according to the group, that may not be the case anymore. Instead, Americas Voice says it sees Rubio as following in the footsteps of immigration hardliners like Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas)
Rubios attitude seems to be if you cant beat em, join em, the group said Wednesday. So much for the partys imperative to get right with the changing American electorate. So much for Rubios aborted attempt to be a national ticket Republican who can compete for the Latino vote.