Rubio's desperate immigration lie: Rewriting his own record to appease the Tea Party

Rubio says he warned the immigration bill wasn't tough enough, but that's not what he argued when he voted for it

Published July 22, 2014 4:58PM (EDT)

Marco Rubio                                    (Reuters/Yuri Gripas)
Marco Rubio (Reuters/Yuri Gripas)

There are few people who better embody the Republican Party’s self-destructive implosion on immigration reform than Marco Rubio. The Florida Republican spent the first half of 2013 championing a comprehensive immigration reform bill and helped shepherd its passage through the Senate, and he’s spent basically every moment since running away from that bill to wheedle his way back into the Tea Party’s good graces.

Pulling off this ridiculous political contortion requires that Rubio indulge in some creative shading of the history of his doomed immigration bill, and that’s precisely what he did on NPR this morning when explaining why the Senate bill stalled after passage.

Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep asked Rubio if he envisioned any scenario in which immigration reform could pass, and Rubio said the only way it can happen “at any point in the next decade” is if it proceeds in three stages: secure the border; modernize the legal immigration system; and then do something about the immigrants already here. Then he turned to the Senate bill:

I’ve been through this now, I was involved in the effort, I warned during that effort that I didn’t think it did enough on this first element, the security front. I was proven, unfortunately, right by the fact that it didn’t move in the House. And I now believe that it’s very clear that if we are ever going to move on immigration reform it will have to be in that sequence.

Listening to this, you may be asking yourself: If Rubio believed at the time that the security measures in the bill were insufficient, why did he end up voting for passage? Did he act against his better judgment?

Well, here’s what happened. Rubio did warn that unless the border security provisions of the bill were beefed up, it would never make it through the House. “If we cannot secure the border, if we cannot take the necessary steps to earn our colleagues’ trust, this will never become law,” Rubio said on Univision in early June 2013.

Shortly thereafter, Republican Sens. Bob Corker and John Hoeven introduced an amendment to toughen up the Senate bill’s border security language, and it passed the Senate on June 26, 2013. After it was introduced, Rubio enthusiastically endorsed the Corker/Hoeven amendment, saying it made “real improvements” to the bill.

On June 26, 2013, Rubio gave a speech on the Senate floor defending the bill from what he said were misconceptions held by conservatives and Tea Partyers. When it came to border security, Rubio was unequivocal in his praise for the legislation, saying that it “mandates the most ambitious border and interior security measures in our nation’s history.”

That’s the bit he’s carefully leaving out when he says that he “warned” about the bill’s security language. Yes, he did warn about it, and then an amendment was passed that satisfied his concerns completely. Rubio wasn’t “proven right” on immigration reform – he underestimated the conservative opposition to reform legislation and now he’s trying to reposition himself as some sort of prophet.

By Simon Maloy

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