Rubio to GOP: “The Rhetoric on Immigration Has Hurt”

Nov 15, 2011
10:18 pm

So, let's get this straight. In May of this year, Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio was being criticized by Latino and immigration activists for being too extreme and "right wing" regarding his position on national immigration policy. As reported in the May 23 Politico article "Marco Rubio  takes a hard line on immigration:" 

But since stepping onto the national stage last year, Rubio has taken a hard right turn on immigration that could drive away the very Hispanic voters Republicans need to win the White House in 2012.

Hispanic and immigration activists had held out hope that with the election behind him, Rubio might return to some of the more moderate positions he staked out as a state lawmaker. Instead, they’re now seething after Rubio hardened his opposition to the DREAM Act and continues to repeat the harsh rhetoric of the right wing, dismissing anything other than border and workplace enforcement as “amnesty” for illegal immigrants.

Today, in a wide-ranging interview with Politico, Rubio was asked about his immigration position and made it a point to urge the GOP to tone down the immigration rhetoric that has become a common theme during the presidential campaign.


Fresh off a visit to Texas and Arizona, Rubio reiterated that the GOP needs to tone down its rhetoric on immigration and be the “pro-legal immigration party.”

“We’re not in favor of amnesty, but what are we for? What modernizations are we for?” asked Rubio, the son of Cuban immigrants. “The rhetoric on immigration has hurt, because it’s hard to get people to listen to that argument, [that American free enterprise is the best system] if they think you’re not being friendly to them or their plight.

“It’s important we get the rhetoric right.”

Rubio's comments suggest that, even though the Florida Senator has already said that he would likely not be a Vice Presidential candidate, the Tea Party Cuban Darling is looking through a national lens. It is clear that the hot button immigration issue is a major theme among US Latinos in the Southwest, specifically those Latinos of Mexican American descent.

Add a major Arizona recall vote, the fact that comments like Herman Cain's "electric fence" and Michelle Bachmann's "illegal alien" quips actually are turning off Latino voters, and it is no wonder that Rubio's remarks are more moderate in nature.

The question is whether US Latino voters are actually listening to what the GOP is saying these days. Rubio's comments are quite telling, but is it too late for the the GOP? Has the immigration rhetoric damage already been done?