When Rubio was running for the Senate in 2009, he told a Florida political blogger that, with regard to immigration, “the most important thing we need to do is enforce our existing laws.” He added:
If you go to people and say: “Look, well you’ve been here for so long that even though you broke the law we’re going to let you stay. . .it demoralizes the people that are going through the legal process: it’s a very clear signal that ‘why go through the legal process if you can accomplish the same thing through the illegal process?’
Rubio then said, “I never have and never will support any effort to grant blanket legalization amnesty to folks that have stayed in this country illegally.”
Later in 2009 (according to Mediaite), Rubio told a Florida Republican club that, unlike his opponent Charlie Crist, he would not have voted in favor of legislation allowing illegal workers to earn legal status. Rubio called this “blanket legalization.”
Similarly, during a Fox News debate in 2010, Rubio declared:
As far as amnesty, that’s where the governor [Crist] and I disagree. He would have voted for the McCain plan. I think that plan is wrong, and the reason why I think it’s wrong is that if you grant amnesty, as the governor proposes that we do, in any form, 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.
Finally, during a CNN debate shortly before the 2010 election, Rubio had this exchange with Candy Crowley:
CROWLEY: You’re going to close the borders, get the electronic system, fix the legal system, and then do what?
RUBIO: You’ll have people in this country that are without documents that will be able to return to the — will be able to leave this country, return to their home land, and try to re-enter through our system that now functions, a system that makes sense.
In other words, “self-deportation.”
When Eliana contacted Rubio’s spokesman, he insisted that the views Rubio expressed in 2010 are consistent with the principles underlying the current bill. He claimed, as Rubio has, that the Gang of 8 legislation does not grant blanket amnesty.
But it does grant blanket legalization as Rubio defined and denounced it during the 2010 campaign. As noted, he considered any legislation that allows illegal workers to earn legal status to be blanket legalization. And he said he would never support such a thing.
Yet, Rubio now sponsors legislation that allows illegal workers to earn legal status.
In addition, the legislation Rubio now sponsors does precisely what he opposed in 2009: it says to people “well you’ve been here for so long that even though you broke the law we’re going to let you stay.”
As a Senate candidate, Rubio also attached the word “amnesty” to the legislation John McCain (now his immigration reform co-sponsor) put forth in 2007. That legislation contained fines and other requirements, just as the Gang’s current legislation does. But Rubio wasn’t fooled by such as bells and whistles as fines and putting illegal aliens at the back of the line. Amnesty was amensty back then.
Furthermore, Rubio’s legislation contains the vice he associated with amnesty — the demoralization of people going through the legal process. Under his proposal, those who willfully violated our immigration laws will soon have legal status in the United States, to be followed in the overwhelming number of instances by gold-plated legal status, and then by citizenship. Those who go through the legal process may never make it into the U.S.
“Amnesty” aside, moreover, Rubio’s position is still inconsistent with what he told Florida voters in 2010. The Gang of 8 legislation isn’t about “enforcing our existing laws.” It is about scrapping them. Yet Rubio told Florida voters that his number one immigration priority was to enforce existing laws.
Finally, the promise Rubio’s made in his exchange with Candy Crowley — that illegal aliens wishing to remain in the U.S. will have to return home and try to re-enter — is now null and void as far as the Florida Senator is concerned. Under the “Gang’s” legislation, those without documentation need not leave the country and try to re-enter through the existing system. They are free to stay here, and will do so.
Politicians are entitled to change their views. What I find most discouraging is Team Rubio’s insistence that his 2010 position is consistent with his position now. The truth is that Rubio has performed a massive flip-flop on immigration.