Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., one of a handful of names being offered as a potential GOP candidate for the White House in 2016, is working on an immigration reform plan that critics say may include some sort of offer of legitimacy for those who already have broken U.S. laws and are inside its borders illegally. Or amnesty.
But in a little seen video filmed during his Senate campaign, Rubio claimed, “I will never support –never have and never will support – any effort to grant blanket, legalization, amnesty to folks who have entered or stayed in this country illegally.”
He also said, “I’m strongly against amnesty for a number of reasons. … The most important thing we need to do is enforce our existing laws. Nothing will make it harder to enforce existing laws” than to grant amnesty.
These and other remarks by Rubio are coming to light as Congress takes up the issue, creating questions about his position as he plays a role in the Senate’s “Gang of Eight” that has announced an attempt to produce an immigration proposal.
While running for Senate in 2010, Rubio stated that “path to citizenship is basically code for amnesty.” He told conservative website Human Events that “you’re never going to have a legal immigration system that works if you grant amnesty.”
Rubio also criticized the incentive structure built into amnesty, stating, “And if you provide a path for people to enter this country illegally and if they stay here long enough and pay enough in taxes, we’ll let them stay legally…why would anyone come in through the legal process?”
Criticizing his opponent in the state race, Gov. Charlie Christ, who supported amnesty, Rubio stated, “[I]f you grant amnesty, as the governor proposes that we do, in any form, whether it’s back of the line or so forth you will destroy any chance we will ever have of having a legal immigration system that works here in America.”
Despite his 2010 belief that a “back of the line” policy would “destroy” the U.S. immigration system, he now supports amnesty that places illegal immigrants at the “back of the line,” in his words today.
He said just weeks ago that what the nation needs to do is enforce the border restrictions that already are in place, then illegals could apply for a green card.
That means illegals already in the U.S. would go through the same procedures as others.
“Not the special way, and the same way, which means you have to stand in line, you have to wait your turn … and you have to qualify for the visa you’re applying for.”
Rubio recognized in 2010 that a “penalty” of going to the “back of the line” still results in amnesty, that a path to citizenship was amnesty, and that amnesty “will destroy any chance we will ever have of having a legal immigration system that works here in America.”
Columnist Ann Coulter blasted a proposal being endorsed by Rubio just a few weeks ago as all amnesty. “Rubio’s bill is nothing but amnesty. It isn’t even ‘amnesty thinly disguised as border enforcement,’” she wrote.
Other GOP senators on the committee also are being watched, too, for the likelihood that the plan they produce will be the talking point about immigration for months.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., has not been solid on the issue, which finds many illegals simply crossing the border and moving in to find a place to live and work.
Commentator Erick Erickson of RedState described Graham as a liar for joining in amnesty efforts.
Graham, like Sen. John McCain, another Republican, joined the late Democratic U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy to support amnesty in 2007.
In a speech to a La Raza dinner, Graham memorably said, “We’re going to tell the bigots to shut up,” referring to amnesty opponents.
In 2007, Graham claimed that the immigration overhaul proposed that year was not an amnesty, and was critical of Republicans who claimed out that it was. Graham disagreed publicly with Sen. Jim DeMint, who spearheaded the effort to stop amnesty in 2007. Graham’s denial led Erickson, the founder of RedState.com, to conclude, “Lindsay Graham is a liar.”
Graham’s rhetoric echoes that of Kennedy: During the push for the 1986 amnesty law, Kennedy proclaimed, “We will secure the borders henceforth. We will never again bring forward another amnesty bill like this.”
NumbersUSA, which supports sustainable levels of legal immigration, reports that “Senator Graham doesn’t want to face voters back in his state.”
Graham has argued that immigration is good for his state’s economy. South Carolina has one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation. Labor economists like professors Vernon Briggs and George Borjas have argued that amnesty will hit low-wage and low-skilled workers hardest, and exacerbate unemployment.
A long-time amnesty supporter, Sen. Flake has co-sponsored five amnesties as a congressman.
Most notably, he sponsored the 2007 amnesty proposal together with Luis Gutierrez, a Democrat from Chicago. Gutierrez claimed that he and La Raza helped draft the administration’s current executive-level amnesty policy.
Flake is rejecting the label “amnesty,” because, as he has said, “If you’re going to get on a path to citizenship here, you have to get in line behind those who have gone through the process.”
However, the process Flake describes could be fully consistent with amnesty, which means release from the penalties of an offense. Rather than penalizing the offense of illegally entering or remaining in the country, illegals will receive the reward of a place in line for citizenship.
McCain has expressed his desire to provide illegal immigrants with “the benefits that make our country so great.”
He is facing severe criticism from constituents in town hall meetings in Arizona. The media has reported on “angry residents” opposing McCain’s amnesty position at these town halls.
McCain was widely lampooned for his “Complete the danged fence” advertisement, which aired while he was seeking reelection to the Senate. At a recent town hall event, a constituent yelled out, “You said build the dang fence, where’s the fence?”
When asked why Republicans should support amnesty now, he reportedly answered, “Elections, elections.” Yet, it remains to be seen whether McCain and other pro-amnesty Republicans can offer any examples of where amnesty has benefited Republicans electorally.
Amnesty is typically called a “comprehensive” reform. But with history as evidence that claim turns out to be untrue. Kennedy’s promise that “[w]e will never again bring forward another amnesty bill like this” is proof of the non-binding nature of political promises about immigration policy.
In 1986, Republicans made their best effort to exchange amnesty for Hispanic votes. In response, Hispanic support for the GOP dropped from 37 percent in 1984 to 30 percent in the 1988 presidential election.
Today, Democrats support amnesty far more than Republicans. No pro-amnesty Republican has explained why Hispanics would be grateful to Republicans rather than Democrats if amnesty passes. Nor have they explained what will stop amnesty from becoming a recurring pattern.
Moreover, polling about Hispanic policy preferences shows a firmly statist, liberal mentality. The Pew Research Center recently asked Hispanics, “Would you rather have a smaller government providing fewer services or a bigger government providing more services?” By 75 percent to 19 percent, Hispanics preferred bigger government and more services. In 2002, in response to a similar question, far fewer Hispanics (55 percent) preferred more government.
Pro-amnesty Republicans have not addressed the steady pro-government shift among Hispanics. As Harvard economist George Borjas notes, Hispanics are “[a]ssimilating into the welfare system.”
Forty-three percent of immigrants who have been in the U.S. for over 20 years are using welfare benefits, and 57 percent of Mexican immigrants are on some type of welfare. A 2011 Pew poll revealed that 55 percent of Hispanics have a “negative” view of the term “capitalism,” worse than the 47 percent of self-identified “Liberal Democrats” who have a negative view of capitalism.
As for social issues, the majority of Latinos support “gay marriage.” Hispanics have a 53 percent out-of-wedlock birth rate, which is twice the white rate. Sixty-eight percent of Hispanics believe health insurance organizations should be forced to cover contraception, just 11 percent said no.
Nonetheless, conservatives like Charles Krauthammer insisted, the day after Barack Obama’s re-election, that Hispanics “should be a natural Republican constituency.”
Harvard political scientist Samuel Huntington once called Hispanic immigration “the single most immediate and most serious challenge to America’s traditional identity,” which could lead to “a major potential threat to the country’s cultural and political integrity.”