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Senator Marco Rubio Speaks at Reagan Library, but Learned Nothing From Reagan on Immigration

by Lynn Tramonte on 08/23/2011 at 4:39pm

Marco RubioFlorida’s freshman Senator Marco Rubio (R) is scheduled to give a speech at the Ronald Reagan Library tonight.  As the Miami Herald notes:

“two weeks after Rubio speaks at the Reagan library, it will play host to a Republican presidential debate.  It begs the question of whether Rubio’s speech there — and his overall strategy — is calculated bait for an eventual vice presidential nod.” 

The upcoming September 7th debate will also feature questioning from a Telemundo reporter.  Immigration—and Reagan’s legacy on the issue—is likely to be a topic of discussion at that debate. 

According to Senator Rubio, President Reagan “basically defined the era in which I grew up in, in every way possible. And to this day, so much of what Reagan stood for is still what we’re still debating about.” 

Unfortunately, it seems Senator Rubio hasn’t read the chapter on immigration in President Reagan’s history book.  If he had, he certainly wouldn’t dismiss common sense proposals like the DREAM Act and comprehensive immigration reform, or advocate for hard-line, mass deportation policies like mandatory E-Verify legislation and the Republican Party’s “border first/legalization never” political plan. 

It’s sad, but true.  When it comes to immigration, Senator Marco Rubio has more in common with Rep. Lamar Smith and Senator Jeff Sessions than he does with President Reagan.

While some have declared Rubio the GOP’s unofficial ambassador to the Latino community, his positions on immigration reform are detestable to a majority of Latinos, according to numerous polls.  He opposes the DREAM Act, supports mandatory E-Verify, and has adopted the standard Republican line about needing to secure the border “first” and deal with other issues—like what to do about the 11 million undocumented immigrants in this country—another time.  Kicking the can down the road on one of the most important questions about immigration reform is not real leadership, and it’s certainly not Reagan-esqe.  Latino voters can see through Rubio’s shine, and it’s time he looked in the mirror as well.

As this America’s Voice analysis of Latino Republican candidates makes clear, Latino voters are far more interested in a politician’s policy positions than his or her ethnic background.  For that, Marco Rubio and others in the GOP should be very worried.    

In contrast to Rubio and most Republicans, President Reagan promoted an immigration policy approach and a vision for our society where immigrants were made to feel welcome.  For example, when President Reagan signed the 1986 immigration bill into law, he said:

“The legalization provisions in this act will go far to improve the lives of a class of individuals who now must hide in the shadows, without access to many of the benefits of a free and open society.”  In his farewell address to the nation, President Reagan referred back to his vision for America as a “shining city upon a hill,” noting, “And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and heart to get here.”

If Senator Rubio really wants to uphold the Reagan legacy, he should reverse course on immigration and chart his Party toward a more centrist, sensible approach.

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