Immigration Reform 2013: Marco Rubio Supports Path to Citizenship


Marco Rubio is not joking around when it comes to making the rounds on the Sunday talk shows. It’s an all out media blitz for the star Republican Senator from Florida. He's appearing on all seven major Sunday talk shows to discuss immigration reform. The immigration reform bill is expected to be introduced next week into the Senate. 

Appearing first on State of the Union with Candy Crowley, Rubio explained the major tenants of the bill including an e-verify system, one of the more controversial parts of the bill. “For those who are undocumented, they will have to wait 10 years, more than 10 years.” President Obama opposes some aspects of the e-verify system because it ties an individuals immigration status to factors beyond their control. Rubio sought to explain what would happen to the millions of undocumented workers here but was intent on getting across that the proposed system was not amnesty, “We’re not awarding anyone anything.” Crowley questioned Rubio about this 10-13 year immigration plan, “Why bother, if I’m someone that has figured out a way to live in this country comfortably, why would I go through the process.” To which Rubio responded, “Because you’re living in the shadows.” 

Next on Rubio’s media tour was Meet the Press. David Gregory asked why he would support comprehensive immigration reform given the political risk associated with it in the Republican party. Rubio responded with what has become his characteristic shtick of saying that he’s avoided any political calculation on this issue. Right. 

The two sparred over Rubio’s past comments on immigration reform, with Gregory pressing him on his past statements on a pathway to citizenship being akin to amnesty. Rubio responded forcefully saying that the immigration legislation he is now backing was in no way amnesty. Gregory asked if there was anything that would cause him to abandon the current immigration legislation. Rubio said if amendments were introduced that altered the current legislation in such a way that completely distorted it, he would no longer support it. He then repeated what he has said in the past, that this legislation was only a starting point.

The Senator spent much of the week meeting with fellow GOP senators and conservative media sources as he expressed his support of the soon-to-be-unveiled immigration bill. Rubio joined the bipartisan Gang of Eight in January in an effort to come up with a comprehensive immigration reform bill. The bill, which will be introduced early next week, will strengthen border security and offer a pathway to citizenship for 11 million undocumented immigrants. The pathway to citizenship has been a hard pill for Republicans to swallow. Republicans would much rather support a bill that was separated into different pieces. Ideally, they would pass tougher border control laws before even considering a pathway to citizenship. 

Rubio’s desire to be seen as the leader on this issue adds more fuel to those saying that he is preparing for a 2016 presidential run. This is arguably the most vocal Rubio has been on any piece of legislation, which faces an uphill battle in the Senate. The Gang of Eight has expressed some anger at Rubio in the past for what was seen as a less enthusiastic embrace of the provisions of the bill. As Time points out, Rubio is beyond politically nuanced. To offset any anger that might have been directed at him as a Tea Party conservative backing immigration reform, he’s made tough demands of the legislation. Rubio’s no idiot, he knows that if this doesn’t pass, he’s got to have a way to come off without being seen as a loser. 

The biggest question here is whether the Gang of Eight will stick together once these amendments come up for votes in the Senate. Despite the fact that Rubio spent much of his time on Sunday morning dispelling any notion of political calculation on immigration or gun control, every word Rubio sputters is carefully considered. In the upcoming week, we'll be able to see Rubio's true political colors as each of these amendments are considered. Whether or not he backs them or finds a way to duck out of supporting them will tell us all we need to know about Rubio's willingness (or lack-thereof) to take political risks.