Once upon a time, Marco Rubio really was supposed to be the GOP’s future. Back in 2013, there was some reason to believe it. He was in the midst of co-authoring the Senate’s immigration reform bill, a package that would have put 11 million undocumented immigrants on a path to citizenship and taken major steps to fix our immigration system.
The effort even got him declared, “The Republican Savior” by Time, and there was plenty of speculation that he could very well be on track to become the first Latino President of the United States. But, life can really throw you a curve ball in the span of two years.
Yesterday, Rubio finally did make his Presidential announcement, and dozens of immigration advocates were on hand, too — but instead to protest the one-time immigration champion for disowning his own immigration bill and the community he’d once lifted up.
From the Miami New Times:
While the story of Rubio’s immigrant family in the U.S. echoed through the speakers, the activists shouted chants — “What about my family? Rubio’s dream is our nightmare!” — that rose well above the volume of the speech. They soon clashed with Rubio’s supporters, who yelled back at the protestors, even hollering, “Get your papers!” at one woman.
The pro-immigration activists, from groups including United Families, United We Dream, Homestead ERA, Dreamer Moms, and other groups, gathered with banners and megaphones around 5 p.m. in front of the Freedom Tower. Then they moved to the overflow site, setting up shop directly in front of a crowd of Rubio supporters who’d come to watch the historic speech.
Catalina Santiago, an 18-year-old student at Homestead Senior High School, was born in Mexico but came to the U.S. at age 8. She says that after she graduates, she wants to contribute to the United States as a member of the workforce.
“Marco Rubio’s family had the American dream,” she said. “But what about us? We’re here too. He shouldn’t forget his community.”
Immigration advocates have been furious about the 180 degree turn Rubio has taken on immigration since entering the Senate in 2011. While he eventually did vote in favor of the bill, he seemingly teetered on the edge, to the point that a group of concerned immigrant mothers famously confronted him on video about his commitment to the legislation. He assured them he was onboard. But, the moms turned out to be right.
In the year following it’s passage, Rubio disowned his own immigration bill, saying he favored a piecemeal, “Border First” approach that the Republican-led House of Representatives refused to take on anyway. Since then, he’s voted in favor of ending the DACA program that protects millions of young immigrants from deportation, and has been a vocal opponent of immigration executive action overwhelmingly popular with Latinos.
It’s no surprise that some of the protesters at yesterday’s event carried signs reading, “Rubio’s Dream Is Our Nightmare.”
During his speech, Rubio mentioned plenty about his immigrant roots, but gone was one particular anecdote he’d once relayed to a reporter about his mother, an immigrant herself:
Rubio said his mother, Oriales Garcia Rubio, left him a voice mail in December that urged him to tread cautiously when it came to undocumented immigrants, whom she called “los pobrecitos,” Spanish for “the poor things.”
“Tony, some loving advice from the person who cares for you most in the world,” Rubio’s mother said in Spanish in a voice mail played for Time magazine. “Don’t mess with the immigrants, my son. Please, don’t mess with them.
“They’re human beings just like us, and they came for the same reasons we came. To work. To improve their lives. So please, don’t mess with them,” she said.
One must wonder what she’s thinking right about now.