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ICYMI: Marco Rubio’s Immigration Doublespeak Under Scrutiny

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Sabrina Siddiqui of The Guardian Explores How Sen. Rubio is Purposefully Confusing on Immigration & Why it Matters
Washington, DC – More and more observers are highlighting that on immigration, Senator Marco Rubio is confusing the issue on purpose.  In new analysis for The Guardian, Sabrina Siddiqui examines Rubio’s purposefully vague immigration stance, the key details he is refusing to provide, and why it matters.  Her piece captures an important clarification from Rubio – that work permits for the undocumented population would only come “when illegal immigration is under control” (while he continues to refuse to specify what exactly would constitute “under control”).  
According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice, “When you unpack Rubio’s consultant-crafted rhetoric, there’s no there there.  It shows he not so much interested in fixing our broken immigration system as he is in fixing his reputation with Republican voters who were unhappy he worked with Democrats on comprehensive immigration reform.  But in a cynical attempt to convince the political class he hasn’t flip-flopped, and to convince donors and Latinos that he’s still for the kind of reforms he once fought for, he pretends his vague, nonsensical approach will still deliver a solution.  It won’t.  It can’t.  And he knows it.  When you get underneath his confident assertion of lessons learned and policies needed, what you find is a ridiculous legislative strategy and a cynical political strategy.  Far from being a serious thinker on immigration, he’s revealing himself to be a cunning pol.”
We excerpt Siddiqui’s piece below, which can be read fully here:
“Marco Rubio insists he supports immigration reform and a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, even as he has shifted from once backing a comprehensive overhaul of the system to now advocating a piecemeal approach.
But during time spent with Rubio on the presidential campaign trail, attempting to get underneath the rhetoric and into the specifics of his immigration plan proves challenging. Should the Florida senator secure the Republican nomination, immigration could be a critical factor in his chances of reaching the White House.
Rubio says he has simply changed his tactics, not his broader position, on how to resolve a decades-long debate. But immigration advocates believe the devil is in the details and Rubio, at least for now, appears reluctant to identify the metrics and timetables they say are crucial to ensuring that the roughly 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the US can even apply for work permits, let alone citizenship.
Presidential candidates on both sides have recognized the growing influence of Latino voters, and Rubio, the son of working class Cuban immigrants, is seen as one of the Republicans’ best hopes of bringing into its fold a demographic that has overwhelmingly favored the Democrats.
But with immigration driving a wedge between Republican primary voters, Rubio has tried to straddle both sides of the immigration debate – maintaining that he is ‘personally open’ to green cards for undocumented immigrants but emphasizing an enforcement-first approach.
During town halls in New Hampshire and Iowa over the past few months and at a Latino forum in Nevada last week, Rubio has answered questions on immigration by laying out the same step-by-step process. His plan begins ‘first and foremost’ with securing the border. Then he will seek to modernize the legal immigration system and only once those steps are complete, he says, will he begin to address those 11 million undocumented immigrants.
He has said quite clearly that undocumented immigrants would not be eligible to apply for work permits until the first two steps of his plan were met.
‘It’s just impossible to get people to even vote on [work permits] until we’ve done the other things,’ Rubio told reporters in Las Vegas last week, after the Guardian asked when undocumented immigrants would be eligible to apply for work permits under a Rubio administration.
When the Guardian posed a follow-up question on how a Rubio administration would determine that illegal immigration was under control – and who would decide an appropriate number – the senator remained vague.
People need to see and honestly believe that the problem is not getting worse, that it’s getting better
‘Ultimately we’d have to work on what that number is and what people think is reasonable,’ Rubio said. ‘It’s never been zero so it won’t be zero, but it can’t be what it is now.
‘People need to see and honestly believe that the problem is not getting worse, that it’s getting better. And until we are achieving that, I don’t think we’re going to have the political support that we need to move forward on the other pieces of it.’
… The topic of immigration is raised often, from town halls to local and national interviews and shouts from occasional protesters.
Rubio’s answer is the same each time. He first identifies three problems: illegal immigration that is “out of control”, a broken legal immigration system, and the fact that millions of immigrants are already in the country illegally. Then, drawing on the failure of his own bill, he underscores that his piecemeal approach is the only viable option.
‘You have to deal with all three of these things, the problem is you can’t deal with all of that … at once,’ Rubio said at a Las Vegas forum hosted by the Libre Initiative, a grassroots conservative group that aims to make inroads among Hispanic voters. ‘I know, we tried. We don’t have the votes. We don’t have the support to do it that way.’
‘You’re not going to round up and deport 11 or 12 million people, and you’re also not going to blanket award 11 or 12 million citizenship cards.’
But as Rubio went through his plan – enhance border security by beefing up personnel and fencing off certain sections; set up an entry-exit tracking system to crack down on visa overstays; move toward a merit-based visa system, away from the current family-based system – the mostly Hispanic audience reserved its applause for the mention of green cards.
For the latter step, Rubio laid out a pathway that mirrored his Senate bill: undocumented immigrants would pass a background check, learn English, pay a fine, start paying taxes and get a work permit. They would remain in that status for at least 10 years, after which Rubio said he would “personally support” allowing some to apply for a green card.
What Rubio didn’t say was what security triggers he would support for the legalization process to commence, other than that it was imperative to prove to skeptics that illegal immigration was under control.
…Frank Sharry, director of America’s Voice, a progressive immigration reform advocacy group, said Rubio’s plan to disconnect the triggers from the path to citizenship essentially meant no reform.
The step-by-step approach, he said, would rest on a hypothetical scenario in which Republicans either changed their mind about a path to legal status or Democrats were suddenly willing to embrace measures they have already ruled out, such as cutting family reunification visas.
‘Rubio says now that once Republicans ‘believe and see’ that illegal immigration is under control, based on goalposts he refuses to set and specify, in a time frame that extends beyond his presidency, immigrants could be allowed to get work permits and someday citizenship,’ Sharry said.
‘That isn’t a realistic strategy, it’s a cruel joke. For years Republicans have kept moving the goalposts on what constitutes a secure border because it allows them to avoid the issue of legalizing undocumented immigrants, an issue that divides the GOP.’
…After one town hall in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, an undocumented immigrant confronted Rubio on why he would seek to end Obama’s executive actions at a time when the threat of deportation could separate millions of families. Rubio responded by noting that the US, like every country, has immigration laws and must enforce them.
Democrats and some pro-reform advocates have attacked Rubio’s narrative, arguing that his enforcement-heavy immigration plan could very well postpone the debate over a path to citizenship until after his presidency. At a campaign stop in Florida late last month, the Guardian asked Rubio for his response to that assertion.
He reiterated his three-step plan and his openness to undocumented immigrants eventually applying for green cards, ‘not through a special pathway but through the same one that everyone is using, and that’s consistently been my plan’.
David Damore, a professor at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas who has focused on Latino voting trends, suggested Rubio will need to make a harder sell on his consistency.
‘At this point he’s pretty much got every position on immigration at some point in the last couple of years,’ Damore said. ‘If it looks like it’s political expedience, that’s problematic.’”
 Follow Frank Sharry and America’s Voice on Twitter: @FrankSharry and @AmericasVoice
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