How Marco Rubio’s Abrupt Change Of Heart Could Endanger Immigration Reform

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) told a conservative radio host on Tuesday 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. The admission comes just months after Rubio described the existing security provisions as “the toughest enforcement measures in the history of the United States” and the Senate Judiciary Committee added additional national security amendments to the legislation.

“Well, I think if those amendments don’t pass, then I think we’ve got a bill that isn’t going to become law, and I think we’re wasting our time,” Rubio told talker Hugh Hewitt, saying that he wouldn’t vote for the measure.

Rubio’s comments are a stark contrast from how he described the reform bill — crafted by a group of bipartisan senators — during his appearances on six Sunday talk shows in April and in countless interviews with conservative talk show hosts.

“[This bill] puts in place the toughest enforcement measures in the history of the United States, potentially in the world,” Rubio told Meet The Press on April 14. “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.”


Three months later, Rubio appears to support an amendment crafted by Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) that would replace those measures with stricter requirements that could delay legal status for undocumented immigrants. Under Cornyn’s amendment, the Secretary of Homeland Security and the Comptroller General must, among other requirements, certify that the government can monitor and control “every segment of the Southern border” before any immigrants in provisional status can file for lawful permanent residence. The current senate bill language says that immigrants can apply for lawful status after the secretary submits border security and a fencing strategies to Congress and insures that both are “substantially deployed and substantially operational.”

It also establishes and funds a “Southern Border Security Commission” to secure the border if DHS cannot reach the security goals in five years. Both approaches require the implementation of E-Verify, an employment verification system, and an entry-exit system.

In April, Rubio specifically defended the original bill from conservatives who argued that DHS has too much authority over border security. “If, in fact, [DHS] fails to reach out metric, then the homeland security will lose control of this issue and it will actually be turned over to a border commission made up of local officials from those states most impacted,” Rubio told Fox News Sunday. “They will have money set aside so they can solve it for those people themselves. So, we’re confident it’s achievable.”

Since those remarks, the Senate Judiciary Committee strengthened the security provisions of the bill. The Senators accepted an amendment from Sen. Chuck Grassey (R-IA) to apply border security strategies to all border sectors, required the government to acuqire and deploy watercraft to provide support for border related maritaime anti-crime activities, expanded background checks for refugees and asylees, and instituted a background check when immigrants in provisional status renew their status.