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With Page Out of Rubio Playbook, Florida Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera Caves to the Trump Effect

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Senator Marco Rubio has taken a sharp rightward turn on immigration in order to put his own political ambitions over the interests of his constituents in Florida.

In his quest to become the president of the “The New American Century,” Marco Rubio has shamelessly distanced himself from his 2013 immigration legislation, while simultaneously pledging to end DACA, a program that currently protects around 700,000 young people from deportation, on day one of his presidency.

Unfortunately, Marco Rubio is not the only Florida Republican who has chosen party over country.

Over the past couple of months, Republicans across Florida have been flocking to embrace Donald Trump’s hateful rhetoric, whether it is by proposing restrictive and dangerous anti-immigrant policies at the state level, or by choosing to ignore their previous work on immigration issues.

One of the most notable examples is Florida’s Lieutenant Governor, Carlos Lopez-Cantera.

Lopez-Cantera, who is currently running to fill Marco Rubio’s vacancy in the U.S. Senate, is no stranger to the issue of immigration. Not only does he, like Rubio, tout his family’s immigrant story on the campaign trail, but has also served as an important broker on legislation that would provide in-state tuition for undocumented students in Florida.

Just two short years after helping undocumented immigrants gain access to in-state tuition, Carlos Lopez-Cantera has chosen to turn his back on Florida’s immigrants by opposing President Obama’s executive orders on immigration. In fact, at a recent meet and greet in Jacksonville, Florida, Lt. Gov. Lopez-Cantera went as far as to question Florida’s Voice Director Juan Escalante’s love for the United States, over his DACA status.

Escalante, who was recognized by Carlos Lopez-Cantera and Governor Rick Scott after authorizing in-state tuition for undocumented students in 2014, provided the following statement regarding Lopez-Cantera’s recent lurch to the right on immigration:

It is downright shameful for Carlos Lopez-Cantera to use immigration as a political football like Marco Rubio. Instead of learning from the failures of Marco Rubio, Lopez-Cantera is echoing them. He tried to disparage the very real concerns about immigration by dismissing it as some-kind of “monolithic” issue for the Latino community.  No one is claiming that, besides him. But the reality is that immigration is only but gateway issue for many Hispanics in Florida because it’s about family and friends. Disrespecting immigrants has become an established tactic for Republicans at the national level.  It’s unfortunate to see that happen to elected officials from our state, which has such a rich immigrant heritage.

In the year of Trump, both Rubio and Lopez-Cantera — who were once champions of pro-immigrant policies — have turned their backs on the immigrant community in favor of appealing to the extremists within Republican Party.

Just like many of his Republican colleagues, Lopez-Cantera is quick to ignore President Obama’s massive and unprecedented deportation record and blame him for inaction on immigration reform. And yet, Lopez-Cantera’s campaign website offers no unique solution on immigration. All Floridians have to look forward to under Lopez-Cantera, is a continuation of Marco Rubio’s broken promises on immigration, and be increased border security and no clear pathway for immigrants to come out of the shadows.

There is no way for hard-working immigrant families to live a life of dignity without immigration reform. Just like there is no way for undocumented youth in Florida to pursue their education or contribute back to their communities without the ability to work or drive, benefits that are afforded to immigrants through the DACA program. The fact that we are willing to risk so much to achieve become part of this country is a manifestation of how much we love this country. Lopez-Cantera knew that once. Not anymore.