Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) has seized on the migrant crisis at the U.S. – Mexican border to dust off his advocacy for comprehensive immigration reform, bucking the Republican party and aligning himself with President Barack Obama.
“Let’s not just throw $3.7 billion at this problem to take care of it as a one-time issue,” the junior Florida senator told a local Florida Fox affiliate this week. “Let’s put in place permanent border security measures, more fencing, more agents, more technology, E-Verify, an entry-exit tracking system to prevent visa over-stays.”
All of those measures are part of a comprehensive immigration bill Rubio helped draft and voted for in the Senate in June of 2013, but eventually abandoned as the legislation proved increasingly unpopular among the party’s more conservative base.
“I think supporters of immigration reform need to be realistic. The House is just not going to jump on board for whatever the Senate passes,” he said in October of 2013. Later that month, Rubio agreed with critics that Obama will simply refuse to enforce the bill’s border security provisions and discouraged House Republicans from taking it up.
But now, while most Republicans are using the surge of unaccompanied minors crossing the border as another reason to delay reform, Rubio appears to have had another change of heart.
“I think this crisis we’re facing should be a catalyst [for comprehensive reform],” he said during an interview Wednesday on The Ed Morrissey Show. Rubio described reform as a three-stage process that starts with border security, the establishment of a merit-based legal immigration system and concludes with a prolonged legalization process for the 11 million undocumented residents. As Rubio explains on his website, the immigration bill he voted for in the senate includes “triggers” that reflect a very similar sequence.
Ironically, Rubio’s decision to re-embrace reform puts him at odds with Republicans like Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) — who told a local Wisconsin radio station on Friday, “right now, the reason we’re not going to do more broader immigration reform is because an absolute collapse of confidence that the president is willing to enforce the laws” — but mirrors Obama.
Last month, the president argued that the lack of comprehensive reform “meant fewer resources to strengthen our borders” and undermined the nation’s economy and security. “We now have an actual humanitarian crisis on the border that only underscores the need to drop the politics and fix our immigration system once and for all,” he said, chiding Republicans who “are using the situation with unaccompanied children as their newest excuse to do nothing.”