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Marco Rubio’s “Fall from Grace” on Immigration Now Complete

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As Rubio’s Immigration Talking Points Get Picked Apart and Criticized, He Sides with Immigration Hardliners on Senate Show-Vote Inspired By Donald Trump

Washington, DC – Today, the U.S. Senate will take a procedural vote on a virulently anti-immigrant bill, sponsored by Senator David Vitter (R-LA) and inspired by Donald Trump, that taints all immigrants as criminals. While the legislation is expected to go down, its backers include Senator Marco Rubio. That’s right, Marco Rubio is a co-sponsor of the Vitter bill, which is a very long way from his courageous support of comprehensive immigration reform in 2013.

As observers have been highlighting, Rubio has been attempting to cover his tracks regarding his lurch to the right on immigration. He relies on consultant-crafted talking points that attempt to say he’s still for reform, only by way of a more viable process. That gig is now up. From the embrace of Vitter’s Trumpian bill to recent clarifications that he would only consider work permits for the undocumented population “when illegal immigration is under control” – while refusing to refuse to specify what exactly would constitute “under control” – Rubio’s attempts to placate both sides of the issue have now been exposed. He is clearly in the camp of the hardliner, anti-immigrant contingent and he is determined to appeal to the hard line Republican primary voters at the expense of the general electorate.

A new piece from Seung Min Kim of Politico helps to unpack this vacuous strategy:

“Rubio’s attempts to explain his trajectory on immigration — from chief GOP advocate of sweeping reform to largely disavowing that effort and now advocating an enforcement-first approach — is drawing criticism from all sides.

‘He’s being very sloppy in the way he’s answering questions,’ said Alfonso Aguilar, executive director of the American Principles Project’s Latino Partnership, which pushes conservative causes among Latinos. ‘He’s being very vague.’

…Rubio emphasizes border security and stopping illegal immigration, but declines to lay out specifics on what that would look like. In an interview last month with Fox News, he said the debate about legalization shouldn’t even begin until after illegal immigration is halted and the legal immigration system is fixed – and it’s difficult to discern what the overall time frame would actually be because he isn’t specific about what it means to stop illegal migration.

… [Aguilar said:] ‘How long will it take? Give us an idea. How long it will take to get there?’ he said. ‘Ten years, he supports a path to a green card which means a path to citizenship. The debate happens 10 years then? Or now? This is the problem.’ Aguilar added: ‘That is the kind of sloppiness that I think opens the door for a lot of people, Democrats in a general election, to question if he’s really committed to immigration reform.’”

Actually, there’s no doubt where Rubio now stands. And there is no doubt that he has turned his back on the best solution to our nation’s broken immigration system: comprehensive immigration reform. This approach would get immigrants in the system, on the books, and further integrated into our communities so that we can redirect our law enforcement resources to focus on serious criminals – which should be the priority for local, state and federal law enforcement. But Republicans have blocked such a solution, with the House refusing to even vote on comprehensive immigration reform last Congress and the Senate now lurching in an unchecked anti-immigrant direction. Instead of showing leadership by standing up for this principled approach he once championed, Senator Rubio has showed cowardice, backing away from it in favor of drawing support from hardliners in the Republican primary electorate.

According to Frank Sharry, Executive Director of America’s Voice, “Rubio’s fall from grace on immigration is now complete. By siding with the anti-immigrant hardliners on a particularly virulent piece of legislation, he is pandering to the Trump contingent in the Republican primary. Ironically, the comprehensive approach he once backed and now rejects would go a lot further to help law enforcement focus on serious criminals than the Vitter show-vote. And by abandoning support for comprehensive immigration reform and outing himself as a cynical politician who’d prefer to pander rather than lead, the very thing that made him an appealing as a new face of the Republican Party is now gone.”