How Rubio Went From Championing Immigration Reform To Vehemently Opposing His Own Bill


As a coalition of Republican business executives, prominent conservatives and evangelical leaders kick off a new campaign urging the GOP to take-up immigration reform, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) — the most prominent Republican senator to support an overhaul of the immigration system — formally walked away from his own immigration bill. A spokesperson for the senator said on Saturday that Rubio opposes conferencing a piecemeal House-passed bill with the Senate’s proposal in order to produce a comprehensive measure that both chambers could support.

His decision to abandon the policy comes after months of wavering and careful political calculation. The first-term senator at times tied himself in rhetorical knots trying to appeal to moderate voters while still courting the conservative Tea Party supporters who helped propel him to the Senate in 2010.

During that election, Rubio claimed that undocumented immigrants had to leave the country and re-enter legally if they ever hoped to attain citizenship. By January 2013 — after President Obama won re-election with a broad coalition of Hispanic voters — he had joined a bipartisan group of senators hoping to overhaul the system through a comprehensive bill that included a pathway to citizenship and began actively courting conservative support for reform. As that group — the so-called immigration “Gang of 8” — prepared to release the legislation that would eventually clear the Senate, Rubio appeared on NBC’s Meet The Press and painted himself as the strongest ally of reform, telling host David Gregory that he didn’t anticipate ever abandoning the measure.

Nine months later, Rubio has moved on. Below is a short timeline of the senator’s many stances on immigration reform:

JAN 14: BLASTS OBAMA FOR NOT ADVOCATING IMMIGRATION REFORM. Rubio tells the Wall Street Journal that Obama has “not done a thing” on reform and is likely using the issue to mobilize the Democratic base. During the presidential campaign, Rubio criticized Obama for failing to achieve reform in his first term. “His party controlled Congress for two years,” he told Fox News in October, “and they did absolutely nothing.”

JAN 14: SAYS HE SUPPORTS A PIECEMEAL APPROACH TO REFORM. Rubio says he would like to see “a comprehensive package of bills”—maybe four or five as opposed to one omnibus—move through Congress. “He says other experience with ‘comprehensive’ reform (ObamaCare, the recent debt deal) shows how bad policy easily sneaks into big bills. But adds, “It’s not a line in the sand for me.”

JAN 28: OUTLINES PRINCIPLES FOR IMMIGRATION REFORM. Shorty after joining a “Gang of 8” senators dedicated to overhauling the immigration system, Rubio toured conservative talk shows advocating his approach to reform. “All we can come up with is a starting point…there are, you know, 94 other senators who have opinions about what this law should look like and there is the American public and there is the House and the Executive Branch so obviously people are going to have some input as to what they want it to look like …this is the first step, this is the architecture,” Rubio tells Hot Air’s Ed Morrissey in January. “We just have to get this thing done for once and for all,” he tells the New York Times.

FEB 17: BLASTS OBAMA FOR DRAFTING IMMIGRATION BILL. After USA Today published a leaked and incomplete draft of President Obama’s immigration reform bill — which resembles 2007′s bipartisan legislation and Rubio’s own principles — Rubio rushes a statement condemning the administration for contributing to the very debate he claimed would be incomplete without its input. Rather than offering a constructive critique of the leaked portions or highlighting areas of similarity, Rubio announced that Obama’s bill is “disappointing to those of us working on a serious solution” and is “dead on arrival in Congress.”

MARCH 31: WARNS SENATORS AGAINST RUSHING IMMIGRATION REFORM. “A rush to legislate, without fully considering all views and input from all senators, would be fatal to the effort of earning the public’s confidence” Rubtio writes in a letter to Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), the chairman of Senate judiciary committee.

APRIL 14: PREDICTS SENATE BILL WILL WIN ‘BROAD SUPPORT. “And this bill modernizes it in a way that’s going to get broad-based support,” Rubio tells NBC’s Meet The Press. “We also have to be able to enforce our laws. This bill once introduced, as we’ve agreed to, I think, will show that a broad base of enforcement measures, unlike anything this country’s ever seen. And what it does is it creates a way for us to address the millions of people that are here undocumented in a way that’s compassionate, but also, in a way that’s responsible.”

APRIL 14: PLEDGES TO SUPPORT IMMIGRATION REFORM. Asked by Meet The Press host David Gregory if he would “step back and say, ‘I can no longer support this compromise agreement?,'” Rubio says: “Well, I’ve been very clear about my principles of what reform needs to look like. And if this bill were to somehow to abandon those principles via the amendment process or what have you, certainly I wouldn’t support that. But I don’t anticipate that.”

APRIL 24: ENTERTAINS THE IDEA OF NOT GRANTING VISAS TO MUSLIM STUDENTS. Rubio suggests that, given the attack on Boston carried out by two immigrants, he would consider barring young foreign Muslims from getting student visas to come the United States.

MAY 7: SLAMS HERITAGE ANALYSIS OF SENATE BILL. Rubio joins the growing chorus of conservative criticism of the Heritage Foundation’s anti-immigrant report, which claims the Senate’s immigration bill would cost the economy $6.3 trillion. Rubio denounces the report’s assumption that all immigrants will forever be poor and uneducated, pointing to how his own family flourished after entering the U.S.

MAY 9: REQUESTS ANALYSIS SHOWING SENATE BILL WILL BOOST SOCIAL SECURITY. Analysis from the Social Security Administration finds that the Senate immigration bill “would strengthen the Social Security trust fund by adding millions of workers to tax rolls and provide a boost to the overall economy.” The report was requested by Rubio.

MAY 24: URGES CONSERVATIVES TO SUPPORT SENATE BILL. Rubio appears on Fox News’ Hannity to argue that undocumented immigrants will have to earn citizenship and won’t disadvantage people applying for legal status. “Undocumented immigrants living in the United States will apply for temporary legal status, begin working and paying taxes, and apply for lawful permanent resident status though the same merit based system everyone else must use to earn a green card and if all people currently waiting for family and employment green cards have had their priority,” he says.

JUNE 4: SAYS HE MIGHT VOTE AGAINST HIS OWN BILL. Rubio tells conservative talker Hugh Hewitt that he would vote against a bipartisan immigration reform bill he helped draft unless lawmakers approve an amendment that would limit the Department of Homeland Security’s discretion over border security and potentially lengthen undocumented immigrants’ path to citizenship.

JUNE 11: URGES SENATORS NOT TO ENDORSE HIS OWN BILL. Rubio urges his Republican colleagues to refrain from publicly endorsing a comprehensive immigration bill he helped write in hopes of bolstering its border security provisions.

JUNE 13: REFUSES TO SAY IF HE SUPPORTS HIS OWN BILL.I don’t want to get involved in the hypotheticals and ultimatums,” Rubio tells ABC’s This Week when asked if he would back the immigration bill he helped draft.

JUNE 27: VOTES FOR HIS OWN BILL. “Here, immigrants will give their children the life they once wanted for themselves,” he says on the floor. “Here generations of unfulfilled dreams will finally come to pass. Even with all our challenges, we remain the shining city on the hill. We are still the hope of the world. And in the end, that is why I support this reform.”

AUG. 12: WARNS REPUBLICANS THAT IF CONGRESS DOESN’T ACT, OBAMA WILL. “I have maintained that for more than a year, that I believe that this President will be tempted if nothing happens in Congress,” Rubio says in on interview on the Morning Show With Preston Scott.

AUG. 30: STOPS TALKING ABOUT IMMIGRATION REFORM. “On a six-city, three-day swing through North Florida last week, Rubio emphasized his opposition to funding the health care law and barely mentioned immigration…In a 35-minute speech to the Rotary Club of Jacksonville, he devoted just one minute to the reform legislation he helped shepherd through the Senate,” The Associated Press reports.

OCT. 20: CLAIMS OBAMA HAS JEOPARDIZED IMMIGRATION REFORM. Rubio says that President Obama’s refusal to compromise with Republicans on Obamacare to re-open the government and raise the nation’s debt ceiling has jeopardized the chances of passing comprehensive immigration reform. “I think immigration reform is harder to achieve today than it was three weeks ago because of what happened here,” the first-term senator said during an appearance on Fox News Sunday, before agreeing with opponents of immigration reform who warn that the Obama Administration will simply fail to enforce border security or other aspects of a bill he disagrees with.

OCT. 26: ABANDONS HIS OWN BILL. A Rubio spokesman tells Brietbart News that the House shouldn’t pass an immigration bill to trigger a conference with the Senate legislation. “At this point, the most realistic way to make progress on immigration would be through a series of individual bills,” Rubio spokesman Alex Conant says. “Any effort to use a limited bill as a ruse to trigger a conference that would then produce a comprehensive bill would be counterproductive. Furthermore, any such effort would fail, because any single senator can and will block conference unless such conference is specifically instructed to limit the conference to only the issue dealt with in the underlying bill.”


In July of 2014, Rubio suggested that he again supports comprehensive immigration reform.

Share Update