A Case of Two Rubios: What He Said About Immigration in 2012–2013 and What He Wrote This Week

Aug 27, 2014
3:43 PM

For those keeping score, here is a series of remarks Senator Marco Rubio said or wrote in 2012 when it came to immigration:

For those children that were brought here at a very young age by their parents, through no fault of their own, who has grown up here their entire lives and now want to serve in the military or are high academic achievers and want to go school and contribute to America’s future. I think there is broad bipartisan support for the notion that, we should somehow figure out a way to accommodate them.

He also said this:

We must admit that there are those among us that have used rhetoric that is harsh and intolerable and inexcusable. And we must admit —myself included— that sometimes we’ve been too slow to condemn that language for what it is.


Don’t forget this nugget when confronted by DREAMers at an event in 2012:

There is no fence high enough, there is no ocean wide enough that most of us would not cross to provide to them what they do not have. I hope never again that young people will have to stand up in an event like this and hold up a sign because the issues been taken care of.

And how can anyone forget the fact that in 2012 Rubio presented his own “alternative DREAM Act”:

Rubio has not put his plan on paper, but his office describes it as an “alternative” to the Dream Act that would legalize certain young people who came to the United States while they were children. The measure would grant non-immigrant visas so qualified young people could remain in the United States for college or to serve in the military.

That all changed when President Obama pushed a similar action Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Rubio backed off. Why become the one who somewhat agreed with the President during an election year, right?

In 2013, Rubio added the following:

We can’t have the kind of vibrant growth we need and the economy we want, based on limited government and free enterprise, if we don’t have a legal immigration system that works. And in order to have a system that works, we have to deal with those people who are already here illegally.

He also added that, “ultimately it’s not good for our country to have people permanently trapped in that status where they can’t become citizens.”

Later in 2013, during the Gang of Eight phase (remember that?), Rubio went on FOX News in 2013 and said the following:

“That is not amnesty. Amnesty is the forgiveness of something.”

Now in 2014, here is what Rubio wrote to President Obama on Tuesday:

August 26, 2014

The Honorable Barack Obama
President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:

As you know, last year I joined efforts in the Senate that successfully passed a bipartisan bill to address immigration. It was my hope that Senate action on this matter could serve as a catalyst for a humane but responsible reform that could ultimately achieve bicameral, bipartisan support. Instead, it led to the stalemate we now face on this issue.

After the experience of the last 18 months, I have become convinced that there is no realistic path forward on comprehensive reform for the foreseeable future. Instead, it is clear to me now that the only approach that has any chance of success is one that addresses our immigration problems in a series of sequential pieces of legislation.

The first component must address the problem of illegal immigration. The last year has made clear to me that many of my colleagues, and the millions of Americans they represent, are understandably unwilling to address the fact that we have over 12 million human beings in America in violation of our immigration laws, until we first do something to ensure that our immigration laws will not continue to be ignored.

The second component of this sequential reform would be a modernization of our legal immigration system. This would move us toward a merit-based system of immigration and provide a measured, predictable, reliable and legal flow of temporary workers, especially in agriculture.

It is my sincere belief that if we can bring illegal immigration under control and modernize our legal immigration system, then the American people and a majority of their representatives in Congress would be willing to reasonably and responsibly address the issue of millions of people currently in this nation illegally. It will not be easy. And it will not be unanimous. But if we can make real progress on stemming the tide of illegal immigration, I am convinced we will have the support necessary to address this serious issue once and for all.

All of this is why I have grown increasingly alarmed by news that your administration is considering sweeping executive action to give work permits to millions of people here illegally. If indeed you move forward on such a decision, I believe it will close the door to any chance of making progress on immigration reform for the foreseeable future.

Your decision in 2012 to institute the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was a major impediment to passage of the kind of immigration reform our nation needs. No matter what we tried to do to institute meaningful enforcement measures in the Senate bill, opponents pointed to DACA as evidence of your unwillingness to enforce the law. They argued that no matter what we wrote into law on enforcement, your administration would simply ignore it.

Furthermore, your pursuit of unilateral action in the midst of an election year, without any concern for the policy ramifications, has played a significant role in the humanitarian and security crisis that has been occurring on our border with Mexico.

That is not my opinion, but rather the opinion of the Presidents of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, who pointed to the “ambiguity” of America’s immigration laws – which DACA exacerbated – as having a direct impact on the immigration crisis we now see playing out on our borders. While it is true legally that those who are arriving are not eligible to relief under DACA, coyotes and human traffickers do not share the details of our immigration laws and policies with those they seek to exploit. In fact, data released by your administration, shows a consistent increase in the number of unaccompanied minor children crossing our southern border following the implementation of DACA. The arrival of more than 56,000 unaccompanied minor children through June of this year alone, and more than 74,000 since 2012, proves that many of them believe it.

I understand that you inherited a broken system created after years of poor decisions made by both political parties in Washington. But the cumulative result of six years of your administration’s approach on immigration reform is that, for all intents and purposes, America no longer has an immigration system. Instead, we have unsettling chaos.

I know you are receiving tremendous political pressure from certain activists to grant another unilateral, temporary and uncertain legal status to millions of additional undocumented immigrants. But to do so, without first taking any serious steps to address the border or protect American workers, will increase the perception of ambiguity in our laws, incentivize more people to immigrate here illegally, and significantly set back the prospects of real reform.

I, along with many policymakers, civic leaders and Americans of differing political persuasions, have spent considerable time and energy trying to fix our broken immigration system. I undertook this task because I believe our immigration system is in desperate need of reform. It saddens me that a nation of immigrants is divided by the issue of immigration.

At the heart of this issue are the people who are affected by it: the American worker whose wages are undercut by illegal workers. The rancher who lives in fear from the cartels and the coyotes. The brilliant young chemist who got her Ph.D. but can’t get a green card. The young mother risking everything to give her child a chance at a better life. The “dreamers” who graduated at the top of their class but face an uncertain future. The Border Patrol agent who brought diapers and formula from his home to care for the children that have been pouring over the border. And the men and women across this country who ask, “If Washington can’t get this right, can they get anything right?”

As someone who believes sincerely in the need for reform, is the son of immigrants, and lives in a community of immigrants, I still reserve some optimism that you’ll reject the politics of the moment and remember that the decisions you make will impact the people at the heart of this issue long after your duty to serve them has come to an end.

Most Respectfully,

Marco Rubio
United States Senator

And you wonder why immigration activists are calling Rubio out for his immigration flip-flops.