Republican Senator Rubio shifts tone on U.S. immigration bill

WASHINGTON Tue Jun 25, 2013 5:54pm EDT

Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) addresses the Faith & Freedom Coalition Road to Majority Conference Kickoff Luncheon in Washington June 13, 2013. REUTERS/Gary Cameron

Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) addresses the Faith & Freedom Coalition Road to Majority Conference Kickoff Luncheon in Washington June 13, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Gary Cameron

Related Topics

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republican Senator Marco Rubio, shifting his tone on the U.S. immigration bill he helped to write, said on Tuesday he is now fully satisfied that the measure will do what it takes to secure the southern border with Mexico.

Rubio, a potential presidential contender and the most high-profile Republican backer of immigration reform, had irked supporters of the sweeping Senate immigration bill with public comments in which he consistently said the legislation was not tough enough on border enforcement.

The Florida lawmaker was part of the bipartisan "Gang of Eight" senators that in April unveiled the bill that would provide a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants while beefing up border security and creating new guest worker programs for high- and low-skilled workers.

The Senate measure appears headed for passage this week, with supporters expecting a strong showing of around 70 votes in favor of it. An amendment on border security crafted by a small group of Republicans has helped to persuade several in the party to give their backing to the bill.

At a cost of $46 billion, the amendment would double the number of agents on the southern border to about 40,000 and provide more high-tech surveillance equipment.

"This amendment basically now puts into place virtually everything people have been asking me to do about immigration enforcement since I began talking about this issue," Rubio told a convention of the American Society of News Editors. "I think we've run out of things we can to do to support - to improve the border."

In a series of television and radio interviews over the past two months, Rubio had said he did not think the bill could get a sufficient number of Republican votes needed for passage without stronger border language and that his own vote depended on such changes.

Alex Conant, a spokesman for Rubio, said that while the senator is now satisfied with the border language in the bill, he would still like to see votes on some other changes, including an amendment under discussion that would further bolster the system employers use to verify workers' legal status.

Passage of the immigration bill in the Democratic-led Senate would send the measure to the Republican-dominated House of Representatives where it faces a much tougher sell. Many conservatives have denounced the plans to give legal status to the undocumented as "amnesty."

Asked about House Speaker John Boehner's strategy for handling the immigration issue in that chamber, Rubio said it is up to House lawmakers to determine the course they want to take.

But he added: "I think we have a good piece of legislation they should take a look at. There are a lot of good ideas that they should adopt."

Speaking with reporters on Capitol Hill, Senator Lindsey Graham, another Republican member of the Gang of Eight, urged the House to "give us their version" of an immigration bill so that the two chambers can work on a compromise.

"If they don't agree with the bill, that's fine, but not having a solution on the table I think is unacceptable for the Republican-controlled House," the South Carolina senator said.

At the news editors event, Rubio, who is often mentioned as a potential 2016 presidential contender, was asked if he was considering a run.

"I know that you're not going to believe me when I tell you this. I really don't think about that right now," he said, adding that his decision would depend on many factors including what would be best for his family and whether he wants to run for another term in the Senate.

(Additional reporting by Rachelle Younglai; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)

FILED UNDER:
We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (9)
TycheSD wrote:
It’s nice that the senator from Florida now plans to support his own bill. Senator Rubio has been engaged for months in a concerted effort to deceive Americans about what’s contained in the Senate’s Gang of 8 immigration bill. Once people began to discover that the Gang of 8 bill had major holes in its border enforcement provisions, the bill started to lose support – to the point that Senator Rubio announced that he couldn’t support his own bill unless border security was beefed up. He briefly flirted with Senator Cornyn, who offered an amendment that would contain a border enforcement hard trigger, but Democrats wouldn’t support a hard trigger as a condition for citizenship for illegals.

Suddenly, two Republican senators came to the rescue of the Gang of 8 bill – Senators Bob Corker of Tennessee and Senator John Hoeven of North Dakota. The Corker-Hoeven amendment was acceptable to Democrats because it didn’t interfere with the immediate legalization of 11 million or so immigrants already in the country, and it didn’t have any hard triggers in it to prevent eventual citizenship of these currently illegal aliens – or at least any hard triggers that couldn’t be waived. The Corker-Hoeven amendment was able to attract more Republican senators because it SOUNDED really tough on border security. Unfortunately, the tough border security is a mirage – something that will never happen because Americans will not stand for a militarized border and it will be too expensive.

The goal all along was to legalize the 11 million people here illegally so they could eventually become citizens, who would almost universally vote for Democrats, and to increase substantially the number of legal immigrants allowed in the U.S. over the next decade or so to benefit businesses who want to hire cheap labor, rather than increase wages to attract American workers.

Senator Rubio may no longer be an attractive potential presidential candidate for the Republican Party, as most Republicans don’t want this legislation, but have been deliberately deceived and confused by Senator Rubio – who formerly had the right kind of conservative credentials. Now he doesn’t.

Jun 25, 2013 4:48pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
actnow wrote:
It is crucial to call the following Republicans IMMEDIATELY who supported the Corker Hoeven ammendment and blast them with all the passion you have. One easy number to reach them all (202 224-3121). Corker Hoeven is being used to give cover to support mass amnesty with no assurance of enforcement, and nothing about visa over stays. Even CBO says that within a few years, we will have 5 million new illegal immigrants (if the bill passes!). Call the following and blast them: Alexander (TN), Corker (TN), Hatch (UT), Heller (NV), Hoeven (ND), Kirk (IL), McCain (AZ), Rubio (FL), Wicker (MS). They must hear our passionate voices. It takes about one to two minutes per call….please….take action now!

Jun 25, 2013 5:12pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
TycheSD wrote:
I wouldn’t bother with McCain, Hatch, Kirk, Rubio, Corker, Hoeven or Heller. They have made up their minds. Heller got a major kickback in the bill for his support. Kirk was under tremendous pressure in liberal state. Hatch was bought off – but he represents business interests anyway, and doesn’t care about American workers. Alexander, Wicker, Portman, Toomey – others who are on the fence would be better bets.

Jun 25, 2013 5:32pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.