As a candidate for the United States Senate, Marco Rubio campaigned on a tough, “no amnesty” immigration stance, in which he advocated against a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants and in strong support of border security before legalization. Now, as a leader of the “Gang of 8,” he has embraced — and in many instances moved farther left of — the very policies he once criticized.
It is okay for Senator Rubio to change his mind, though he and I may disagree. For too many conservatives, though, Senator Rubio appears to be trying to reconcile irreconcilable positions. In the past several days, tea party activists who once supported him have been booing just the mention of his name. Conservative groups that once touted him as the second coming of Ronald Reagan have moved on to Ted Cruz.
There is much time between now and 2016, and there will be other challenges that see the right and Senator Rubio united. But I suspect the contradictions of these statements will come up in ad campaigns in Iowa, New Hampshire, and elsewhere.
Candidate Marco Rubio said:
About a path to citizenship —
“America cannot be the only country in the world that does not enforce its immigration laws. It is unfair to the people that have legally entered this country to create an alternative pathway for individuals who entered illegally and knowingly did so. And all I’m saying is that if you do that you will never have a legal immigration system that works. No one is going to follow the law if there is an easier way to do it.” (emphasis added)
“If you grant amnesty, the message that you’re sending is that if you come in this country and stay here long enough, we will let you stay. And no one will ever come through the legal process if you do that.”
“Well, we have a path for citizenship. It’s called coming legally into this country. The ones who are already here. You can’t do it.”
“[Gov. Crist] would have voted for the McCain plan. I think that plan is wrong, and the reason I think it’s wrong is that if you grant amnesty, as the governor proposes that we do, i i, whether it’s back of the line or so forth, you will destroy any chance we will ever have of having a legal immigration system that works here in America.” (emphasis added)
About border security first —
“First and foremost we have to secure the border, we have to secure the workplace. We can’t move on to the modernization of our legal immigration system until both the border and the workplace are secure, through both E-Verify and real security at both the Canadian and the Mexican borders.
We’ve got to accomplish that first before we can do any modernization, which is needed.” (emphasis added)
In a CNN debate on Oct 24, 2010, moderator Candy Crowley asked, “So your plan is that you’re going to close the borders, get the electronic system, fix the legal system, and then do what?” Rubio responded: “And then you’ll have a legal immigration system that works. And you’ll have people in this country that are without documents that will…be able to leave this country, return to their homeland, and try to re-enter through our system that now functions, a system that makes sense…Earned path to citizenship is basically code for amnesty.”
As a senator, Marco Rubio has reinforced both commitments: to deny illegal aliens a path to citizenship and to secure the borders before any legalization.
(In response to criticism of a path to citizenship) “I’ve long shared the same concern….and that’s why we’ve outlined it the way we have. [A]ll they [illegal aliens] get is a temporary status…they can’t turn that into citizenship or anything else….[A]fter we have certified that the enforcement things have actually happened, because the big mistakes of the past have been they’ve done the legalization but they haven’t done the enforcement, and hence, it’s led to 11 million people. I don’t ever want to have to do this again. So after…the enforcement things have happened, then the only thing they’re going to get is the ability to apply for a green card, just like anybody else would—not in a special way, in the regular way, by getting in line, qualifying for the visa they apply for, etc. So all we’re going to give them a chance to ultimately earn is the chance to do what they should’ve done in the beginning, and that’s try to enter the country legally.” (emphasis added)
Senator Marco Rubio has reversed himself on immigration and demonstrated with words and actions that his Gang of 8 plan will provide a path to citizenship and that the path will begin before the border is secured.
(Speaking in Spanish on Univision) “Let’s be clear. Nobody is talking about preventing the legalization. The legalization is going to happen. That means the following will happen: First comes the legalization. Then comes the measures to secure the border. And then comes the process of permanent residence. What we’re talking about here is the system of permanent residence. As for the legalization, the enormous majority of my colleagues have accepted that it has to happen and that it has to begin at the same time we begin the measures for [the border]. It is not conditional. The legalization is not conditional.
“[W]hen these people come forward, as part of that registration, they’re going to have to pay a fine. And that money from those fines is what I think is what we’re going to use to pay for the border security. Those are billions of dollars. I don’t want that money coming from the American taxpayer, and I don’t want that money coming from the Treasury or adding to the debt. It needs to be paid for, and that’s why we need that fine money up front.”
“What we have in place today is de facto amnesty.”
On June 13, Senator Rubio and the rest of the Gang of 8 voted to table an amendment that would have prohibited legalization until the Homeland Security Secretary has maintained effective control of the borders for 6 months.
On June 18, Senator Rubio and the rest of the Gang voted against an amendment that would have required completion of the fence, as well as an amendment that would have required implementation of U.S. VISIT (a biometric border check-in and check-out system first required by Congress in 1996), before legalization.