Frank Sharry: Rubio “Confusing the Issue on Purpose;” Clinton “Engaging in Some Long Overdue Straight Talk”
The contrast between Marco Rubio and Hillary Clinton on immigration reform was on full display yesterday. Rubio talked out of both sides of his mouth in ways that were confusing with respect to his policy stance and revealing with respect to his character. Meanwhile, Clinton leaned in on an issue that has tripped her up in the past, declaring that it’s time to fundamentally alter our approach to immigration enforcement even as we fight for comprehensive immigration reform.
Marco Rubio: Confusing the Issue on Purpose
In an interview with CNBC’s John Harwood yesterday, Rubio was challenged on his immigration stance. His response created more questions than clarity. Does he support a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants or not? Under what conditions and on what timeline? And under his newly-crafted, consultant-approved, built-for-the-primary “step-by-step” approach to reform, how can we be sure that we ever get beyond the first step, which is to stop illegal immigration altogether?
A must-read piece by MSNBC’s Benjy Sarlin brilliantly dissects the shape-shifting Rubio:
“Even assuming Rubio is still open to a 10-year path to citizenship similar to what was outlined in his old bill, a lot of the timeline depends on how Rubio would order his immigration plan as president. Rubio’s said he would pass his plan in three parts: Part one, border enforcement, a crackdown on illegal hiring, and new measures to track people who overstay their visas. Part two, an overhaul of the legal immigration system. Part three, legalization.
“What Rubio hasn’t said is how long it would take to get to part three, which is the portion that immigration activists advocating for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country are by far most concerned about. Rubio said in Iowa this week he will ‘prove it’ to the American people that enforcement is in place, but he hasn’t named a specific metric for how to judge it. If the measure is that people ‘feel’ like the border is secure, then it may never happen because many Republicans don’t support legal status for undocumented immigrants under any circumstances and many people will be convinced illegal immigration is out of control no matter what — even despite evidence that suggests illegal immigration has plateaued or even reversed (as in more people leaving the country than entering) over the last seven years. If the metric is implementing security provisions and proving that they’re in place, it could happen a lot sooner.
“As a result, no one knows when this 10-year-or-so clock actually begins. In fact, it’s still not clear when people will gain just temporary protection from deportation, let alone a path to a green card and citizenship. In an interview last month, Rubio seemed to indicate that he might wait 10 to 12 years before even having a conversation about green cards, a timeline that would punt the issue past his hypothetical presidency entirely. And every day the enforcement measures, especially provisions that block hiring undocumented immigrants, are in place without some temporary legalization component, then the plan is effectively Mitt Romney’s ‘self-deportation.’
“This fuzziness on his timeline could become especially important in a general election. If Rubio so chose, after he won his party’s nomination, he could tack towards the reform side with a much more specific and achievable plan as to how he would implement legalization without violating any of his present statements. If he decided to go the opposite route and fire up the anti-immigration right, he could name a more specific and extremely difficult criteria for allowing legal status that may never happen. Whether you’re a conservative opponent of immigration reform or a progressive supporter, it’s hard to truly evaluate Rubio’s position — until he fills in the gaps.”
Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice, had this to say about Rubio’s positioning on immigration:
“He is confusing the issue on purpose. After Rubio bravely fought for comprehensive immigration reform in 2013, an effort that led to the passage of the Senate bipartisan bill, he saw his poll numbers take a hit among primary voters. He could have stood his ground and fought to lead his party out of the wilderness of white identity politics and towards a modernized GOP capable of broadening its appeal. After all, John McCain did so after a bruising immigration battle in 2007 and won the nomination in 2008.
“But Rubio’s ambitions led him to oppose comprehensive immigration reform after fighting for it. He and his consultants crafted a new approach – one that kept the path to citizenship component (sort of, maybe, depending), but only after conservatives get all they want with respect to hawkish immigration enforcement and pro-business legal immigration changes.
“Thus, he can tell donors that he’s for the kind of immigration reform they favor, but, having learned the hard way, his new approach is the key to reaching the promised land. Meanwhile, he can tell hardliners in the GOP the only way we ever get to the parts of immigration reform they don’t like is to give them all they want in enforcement, up front and as long as it takes to stop illegal immigration cold.
“Of course, this is a prescription for the constantly moving goalposts that translate ‘border security first’ into ‘immigration reform never.’ As Benjy Sarlin points out, the confusion means voters have no idea if, underneath the blizzard of words, he intends to have most undocumented immigrants become citizens, or he intends to have most undocumented immigrants leave the country. Hardly a profile in clarity or courage.”
Hillary Clinton: Engaging in Some Long Overdue Straight Talk
Released yesterday, Hillary Clinton’s recent interview with Telemundo paints a stark contrast with Rubio’s remarks. She reiterated her strong support for comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship and restated her commitment to using executive authority to protect undocumented immigrants. She then went on to criticize the Obama Administration strategy of ramping up immigration enforcement in hopes of getting Republican support for a legislative breakthrough (although newly-reported deportation numbers, documenting a 42% drop in deportations since 2012, show that the Obama Administration is starting to shift towards a less harsh approach, though troubling examples of excess remain a significant problem).
Here’s some of what she had to say when asked about Obama’s record on immigration:
“I think he’s done a lot. But I also think because the deportation laws were– interpreted and enforced, you know, very aggressively– durin’ the last six and a half years, (NOISE) which I think his– administration did in part to try to get Republicans to support comprehensive immigration reform.
“It was– it was part of a strategy. I think that strategy is no longer workable. So therefore I think we have to go back to being a much less harsh and aggressive– enforcer. We need to, of course, take care of felons and violent people. I mean, that goes without saying.
“But I have met too many people in our country who were upright, productive people who maybe had some, you know, minor offense. Like, you know, maybe they were– arrested for speeding or they had some kind of– you know, one incident of drunk driving, something like that 25 years ago.
“And they were hauled in and deported. And I’ve met their wives and their children. And I– I just don’t believe in that. I think everybody is entitled to a second chance. And I don’t wanna see families disrupted, families deported. I wanna see comprehensive immigration reform. And I’m gonna do everything I can as soon as I get into office to push on that.
“But in the meantime, I’m not gonna be breaking up families. And I think that is one of the differences. But I totally understand why the Obama administration felt as though they did what they did under the circumstances. But I think we’ve learned that the Republicans, at least the current crop, are just not acting in good faith.”
Frank Sharry had this to say about Clinton’s immigration remarks:
“Hillary Clinton is engaging in some long overdue straight talk on immigration reform. First, she’s right when she calls out President Obama’s strategy of ramping up deportations – over 2 million in 6 years, more than any other President in history – in an attempt to gain Republican support for comprehensive immigration reform. It failed as a political strategy, and succeeded only in destroying millions of families. Second, she’s right to call out Republicans for being unreliable partners in the push for reform. Third, she’s right to focus on the human cost of harsh enforcement. We are talking about Americans in all but paperwork, and instead of coddling Republicans with stronger enforcement, she is promising to use executive authority to keep parents with children and reduce the fear of deportation until Congress passes reform.
“Clinton has had her share of missteps on immigration in the past: in 2008 she was for and then against drivers licenses for undocumented immigrants; during her 2014 book tour she said Central American minors fleeing violence should be sent back, and it took her weeks to clarify that kids fleeing violence should first have a chance to make their case for protection in the U.S.; and in response to a question regarding Obama’s 2014 pre-midterm delay in announcing executive action, a delay that came at the behest of Democrats, she said the answer is to, well, elect more Democrats. Her comments yesterday, however, were clear, strong and positive.”
Sharry concluded by adding:
“The bottom line is this: Rubio, who now opposes comprehensive immigration reform – his one legislative accomplishment in the Senate – is hoping his various audiences hear what they want to hear. We can see through the sand being thrown in our eyes. He’s more interested in covering up his hypocrisy and pursuing his ambitions than in fixing our broken immigration system and broadening his party’s appeal. Clinton, who has had her share of missteps on immigration, is now calling it like she sees it and pointing in the direction of executive actions and legislative reforms that will treat millions of immigrant families with the respect they deserve. As of yesterday, the contrast couldn’t be clearer.”