By Eliza Collins and Seung Min Kim
November 4, 2015
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) took a subtle but notable shift on immigration on Wednesday, declaring that he would end a program designed to protect young undocumented immigrants in the United States, even if a congressional overhaul doesn’t happen under his watch.
Previously, Rubio had said as president he would not immediately revoke the so-called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program — a 2012 directive from President Barack Obama that shielded so-called DREAMers who came here illegally at a young age from being deported.
Rubio indicated that he hoped the program would end because lawmakers would have passed immigration reform to replace the executive action.
But on Wednesday in New Hampshire, Rubio sharpened his position: DACA will have to end, even if Congress never hands him an immigration bill to sign if he is elected as president.
“This program’s now been around for three years and we haven’t signed it by now … we’re not going to extend the program,” Rubio said. “DACA is going to end. The ideal way for it to end would be it’s replaced by a reform system that creates an alternative but if it doesn’t it will end. It cannot be the permanent policy of the United States.”
The Florida senator – who played a key role in the Senate’s comprehensive immigration reform efforts in 2013 – conveyed similar remarks earlier this year, but expressed less urgency about revoking Obama's action. The interview at the time got little attention, but resurfaced this week and caused a stir in conservative media.
“I don’t think we can immediately revoke that,” Rubio said in the April interview with news anchor Jorge Ramos. “I think it will have to end at some point. And I hope it will end because of some reform to the immigration laws. It cannot be the permanent policy of the United States but I’m not calling for it to be revoked tomorrow or this week or right away.”
In response to the April video, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie slammed Rubio on his DACA position during a Tuesday interview with conservative talk radio host Laura Ingraham, arguing that the senator should have taken a more aggressive stance over Obama’s unilateral actions.
“I don’t know why anyone would want to have someone who is not going to enforce the law as the chief law enforcement officer of the United States,” Christie told Ingraham. “Now maybe Marco doesn’t believe that the executive order is illegal, and if he doesn’t he should say that.
And, he’s welcome to that opinion, obviously there’s lots of Democrats who would agree with that. But, he needs to say that.”
Donald Trump also jumped in, tweeted out on Tuesday an article from the conservative website Breitbart that criticized Rubio’s remarks to Ramos for not giving a timeline on when the program would end. “Marco Rubio would keep Barack Obama’s executive order on amnesty intact. See article. Cannot be President,” he tweeted.
Alfonso Aguilar, executive director of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles, a conservative organization aimed at getting Latinos involved with conservative issues and causes, wasn’t concerned about the shift in comments and called them a “practical approach.”
“I think he believes that he would end it by replacing it with good legislation that provides a path to legal status for the undocumented,” Aguilar told POLITICO. “The only way to get a permanent solution for the undocumented is through legislation.”
But other Hispanics were not happy.
“While there might be a race to the bottom to attack Latinos and immigrant families, the fact is DACA stands as living proof that America benefits when an undocumented individual is allowed the opportunity to fully contribute to the economy through their ingenuity, skills, and hard work,” Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J) said in an e-mailed statement to POLITICO. “This latest attack on young DREAMers is indicative of the jam the GOP candidates are in when it comes to the fastest growing voting bloc in our nation. The road to the White House is not feasible without the support of Latinos, yet they can’t get through a primary without capitulating to right-wing radicals.”
The bipartisan Latino Victory Fund, a group to increase Latino political power, circulated a statement shortly after his remarks that alleged he abandoned his community.
“Rubio has been a leader on immigration reform in the past, but when leading on the issue is no longer politically expedient he is abandoning his community for the purpose of his own ambitions,” President Cristobal J. Alex said in the statement. “Latinos are listening and Marco Rubio just made it crystal clear that he is completely out of touch with the needs of the Latino community and that he doesn’t stand with us. Rubio should remember that it’s not enough to be Latino to get our community’s support."
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