Rubio's rapid response to immigration reform critics
April 18th, 2013
06:30 PM ET
8 years ago

Rubio's rapid response to immigration reform critics

Washington (CNN) - Marco Rubio is on a full-court press on immigration reform.

On Thursday, when Rubio and the seven other senators who make up the bipartisan "Gang of Eight" formally introduced their comprehensive reform bill in a high-profile news conference, the first-term Republican senator from Florida did 10 interviews on conservative talk radio. That follows the four interviews he gave the previous day.

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"Our current laws are dysfunctional in terms of we have a legal immigration system that's just completely broken," Rubio told Michael Medved, who hosts one of the most popular conservative radio talk shows in the country.

And Rubio launched a website called "Immigration Reform Facts," to better explain the bill and to push back against misinformation.

Of all the members of the Gang of Eight, no one has more on the line than Rubio. He's the only Republican who's considered a leader among conservatives and he's the only one of the eight senators considered a serious contender for president in 2016.

But Rubio says this isn't about politics.

"If we are doing this for political reasons, I think we'll be disappointed and it's not my motivation. My motivation is that I want to solve this problem for the country," Rubio on Thursday told Rush Limbaugh, who hosts the highest-rated talk radio program in the country.

The proposal, formally known as the "Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013," calls for a 13-year path to citizenship for those who entered the United States before 2012.

It would take 10 years for such undocumented immigrants to get a green card and then another three years to gain citizenship. Along the way, they would have to pay a fine and back taxes, and pass a background check. The legislation also mandates that there be no path to legality until it is determined that the U.S. border with Mexico is secure.

While polls indicate majority support for such an eventual pathway to citizenship, a vocal minority of conservatives call it "amnesty."

"Before lawmakers proceed with 'comprehensive' reform, it is critical for them to understand the costs to taxpayers of an amnesty that qualifies millions of unauthorized immigrants for federal benefits," wrote former Sen. Jim DeMint, president of the Heritage Foundation, one of the oldest and most influential conservative think tanks, in an op-ed Thursday in USA Today. "An amnesty of more than 10 million unauthorized immigrants will add significant costs to taxpayers."

It's a delicate dance for Rubio - he needs to lead his party, and especially its conservative base, on immigration but he can't get out too far ahead of conservatives on the issue.

Rubio is going from interview to interview, defending the bill.

"Here's the bottom line: We're not going to deport 11 million people,” Rubio told Limbaugh. “The status quo is amnesty and that's why we've come up with a process where folks have to come forward, undergo a background check, pay a fine, start paying taxes, not qualify for federal benefits and wait 11 years. And then the only thing they get is the chance to apply for a green card. They still have to qualify for it.”

“I know it's not perfect but it's a lot better than what we have right now."

After President Barack Obama won nearly three-quarters of the Latino vote in last year's presidential election, the Republican National Committee conducted a top-to-bottom review that recommended the party change its language and messaging in an attempt to better reach out to minority and younger voters.

But some Republicans say that allowing millions of illegal immigrants eventual citizenship will only dig a bigger electoral hole for the party.

Rubio disagrees, and told Limbaugh, "I am not prepared to admit that an entire population of people, because of their heritage, aren't willing to listen to our pitch on why limited government is better."

After Rubio finished his appearance, Limbaugh called him "a full conservative," but he criticized the Gang of Eight bill, saying "I'm never going to understand it."

Later in the day, Rubio joined the rest of the gang for its news conference and opened his comments with a joke about his well-publicized disagreement earlier this month with some of the other seven over the status of their proposal. To some, it sounded like Rubio was jumping ship.

"Actually, I changed my mind – no, I'm kidding," Rubio said to laughter.

Then it was off the to the floor of the Senate, where he again explained and defended the proposal, pushing back against criticism that the legislation is being rushed through Congress.

"This bill's been online already for 48 hours," said Rubio, adding that "people are going to have three to four weeks to review it."

Then Rubio entered into a lion's den at a nearby Capitol Hill-area hotel, where the Federation of American Immigration Reform, which pushes for a reduction in both legal and illegal immigration, was holding its annual immigration "Hold Their Feet to the Fire" radio row in the nation's capital.

While some high-profile conservative commentators have changed their mind on immigration since the November election, many still are dead-set again what they consider "amnesty."

Rubio was grilled by nationally syndicated radio talk show host Mike Siegel, who said he's against the bill "because it violates the law that presently exists on the books."

Rubio responded: "It's a pretty tough road. It's not perfect but I think it's better than leaving them here the way they are right now," and added it's time to "clean up this mess and make sure it never happens again."

But Siegel thinks Rubio's push on immigration could hurt him if he decides to run for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination.

"He's disappointing his base and I think it's going to hurt him politically."

Filed under: Immigration • Marco Rubio • Senate
soundoff (47 Responses)
  1. Donnie the Lion

    When the GOP failed to embrace Hispanic voters, and branched off from talking about fiscal issues into social issues, they were doomed. If they don't correct those problems, they are doomed moving forward as well. The party of small government has to also become the party of no religion.

    April 18, 2013 11:32 pm at 11:32 pm |
  2. Seth Hill

    I used to think we should deport all illegals. Until I realized how much it would cost: about 250 billion. How much do you want your taxes raised to pay for that?

    April 19, 2013 12:07 am at 12:07 am |
  3. FLvoter

    I voted for Rubio but I will not be voting for him to be reelected or for president.

    April 19, 2013 12:11 am at 12:11 am |
  4. Bob

    That Rubio is scurring around in a panic and talking to the likes of trash-mouth Limbaugh is all you need to know.

    April 19, 2013 12:12 am at 12:12 am |
  5. ReaganRepublican

    Worrying about the base is going to take the party and the country down. The far right will always vote for the Republican candidate. Romney and McCain bot lost because they pretended to be extremely conservative. The voters they lost were the ones in the middle that decide the election.

    April 19, 2013 12:21 am at 12:21 am |
  6. barbara

    Getting really sick and tired of our government making these broad reforms and people (the taxpayers who will bear the burden of it) never get a chance to vote on it. Hey... isn't that called taxation without representation. Maybe such reforms that have such a huge impact on the American people should be put up for national referendum, instead of politicians making the decisions. If we don't want our tax dollars going to fund the benefit packages (financial assistance) that these people will get, we really don't get a say in it, now do we. Interesting how our government is telling us more and more how they are going to spend our money. They need to remember that we pay their salaries and that they work for us. Not the other way around.

    April 19, 2013 12:23 am at 12:23 am |
  7. Tony

    "The legislation also mandates that there be no path to legality until it is determined that the U.S. border with Mexico is secure."

    Who is he kidding?

    April 19, 2013 12:25 am at 12:25 am |
  8. Sandy

    NO AMNESTY for the illegals. We have no jobs for the illegals.

    April 19, 2013 12:36 am at 12:36 am |
  9. Illegal immigrant

    It is very funny how these conservative people are thinking..the illegals broke the written law... How about the first people that came on this continent and disposed the natives of their land and private them from liberty,by killing thousands of them? How about that unwritten law? How about slavery and human trafficking that this country did for hundreds of years? And they wanna continue slavery by oppressing the about that? All the respect for Mark Rubio,he decided to face the current situation and do something instead of being a conservative chicken...

    April 19, 2013 01:05 am at 1:05 am |
  10. WannaMontana

    "He's disappointing his base and I think it's going to hurt him politically." .... I'm conservative, but glad Rubio is willing to risk disappointing his base. Translation: He is thinking independently, ... not totally politically.

    April 19, 2013 01:07 am at 1:07 am |
  11. David Crosby

    Not Political..? And he is Cuban..He wouldn't know the first thing about being Mexican..

    April 19, 2013 01:31 am at 1:31 am |
  12. NorCalMojo

    Rubio was a fool to touch this. Good bye 2016.

    April 19, 2013 01:36 am at 1:36 am |
  13. billmosby

    Not going to deport 11 million. If half as much energy had been put into doing it as has been put into declaring it impossible over the past 30 years, the job would have been done 20 years ago.

    April 19, 2013 01:37 am at 1:37 am |
  14. J. Bates

    Why do a handfull of old and cold people who still listen to Rush Limbaugh make him relevant to the rest of us?

    April 19, 2013 02:21 am at 2:21 am |
  15. Bob1god

    Being from Fori-DUH, Marco political career b dead. As usual, he b last to know!

    April 19, 2013 02:28 am at 2:28 am |
  16. Andy Anderson

    I gave up on Rubio when he couldn't give a straight answer about the age of our planet, because he was too afraid of upsetting the people who believe the Earth is 6-10,000 years old because the Bible says so.

    If you are unable to acknowledge demonstrably true facts about the world around us, you are not qualified to hold a job as a public servant.

    April 19, 2013 02:37 am at 2:37 am |
  17. CHRIS

    Treason plain and simple. We do reward criminals and if those bozos in Washington think we are going to accept this they are wrong. They better start listening to what their legal citizens want and we do not support this.

    April 19, 2013 02:46 am at 2:46 am |
  18. Rev

    His base was already disappointed with him. Just the fact that he's latino by default means his base will range from disappointment to hatred.

    April 19, 2013 02:58 am at 2:58 am |
  19. charlysaints

    If Senator Rubio works his rear end to make this piece of legislation into Law, se surely deserves my vote and the votes of Latinos in the United States. Latinos tend to be more conservatives once they got immigration problems solved.

    April 19, 2013 03:27 am at 3:27 am |
  20. snomannn

    Does anyone really think there's hope for America any more when the number one rated radio talk show is Rush Limbaugh's ?

    April 19, 2013 03:35 am at 3:35 am |
  21. Tracy

    “I know it's not perfect but it's a lot better than what we have right now." ....
    So, Rubio admits that it is not perfect, and most likely, only the responsible immigrants will do it. The criminals will still enter the country.....
    Sound like a familiar reason to reject an idea????

    April 19, 2013 03:46 am at 3:46 am |
  22. James

    As a conservative, I have to say that I don't really give three squirts what Rush Limbaugh thinks, or what he thinks I should think.

    Of course, that is my opinion of any "personality" on any broadcast medium, so make of it what you will.

    April 19, 2013 04:09 am at 4:09 am |
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