Yes, Rubio and Obama Mostly Agree on Immigration. No, That Doesn’t Mean Reform Is Inevitable.

How far is Rubio willing to bend to cut a deal few of his supporters want with a president most of his supporters despise?

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Florida Senator Marco Rubio addresses the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials conference on June 22, 2012 in Orlando, Florida.

It’s true that Senator Marco Rubio’s stated principles for comprehensive immigration reform are quite similar to President Obama’s. It’s also true that when Rubio attacks the president over reform, as he did after a White House legislative draft leaked last weekend, he’s signaling to his fervently anti-Obama base that he’s still a solid Tea Party Republican. As I wrote in my Rubio profile, “some of this is Beltway theater; reform could become toxic to Republicans if it’s perceived as Obama-friendly.” This is why smart restrictionists like Mark Krikorian of the National Review as well as smart reformers like Benjy Sarlin of Talking Points Memo seem to agree that Rubio is just posturing, that what really matters are the similarities between his principles and the president’s, that the partisan theater is designed to reduce Republican resistance to bipartisan reform.

Well, maybe. Obama did call Rubio in Jerusalem Tuesday night, and both sides expressed ritual optimism. But there are some real differences between Rubio and Obama on immigration. Sure, Rubio’s rhetoric could help make reform politically palatable to Republicans, and even help move reform substantively to the right. But it could also help lay the groundwork for Rubio to scuttle reform, accuse Obama of overreaching, and claim credit for trying to forge a bipartisan solution. Beltway theater can have real consequences, and the more Rubio threatens to walk away from any deal that doesn’t include everything he wants, the more pressure he will face to walk away when the deal, inevitably, doesn’t include everything he wants. Nobody but Rubio knows how far he is willing to bend to cut a deal few of his supporters want with a president most of his supporters despise.

(MORE: If Immigration Reform Stalls, Federal Courts Could Have A Say)

Remember, in interviews with right-wing talkers like Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin and Sean Hannity, Rubio has drawn a series of lines in the sand, pledging to oppose any immigration bill that doesn’t reflect conservative principles. He said he wouldn’t support any legislation that doesn’t secure the border (whatever that means in practice) and set up an employment verification system (also in the eye of the beholder) before sending undocumented immigrants along a path to citizenship. He insisted that all 11 million undocumented immigrants will have to go to the “back of the line” behind foreigners who followed the rules. He demanded a special “guest worker” program for agriculture. And he said Obama’s draft proposal, by failing to address “future flow” of legal immigrants, would actually make the situation worse.

The details of these differences may matter less than the fact that there are so many of them. Rubio has left himself an awful lot of exit ramps on the long and winding highway to bipartisan legislation. Ferocious opposition from right-wing radio helped derail similar reforms during the Bush administration, and everything Rubio is saying is consistent with an effort to try to defuse that opposition. But everything Rubio is saying is also consistent with an effort to get “caught trying,” a phrase the Obama White House uses to describe losing a battle but getting credit for fighting. Rubio has already taken a stand for reform, so he’s well positioned to try to blame Obama for demanding too much if a deal doesn’t happen. He’s the only prominent Republican who could make that case en espanol. And it’s hard to think of any Republican who has suffered any political consequences for blaming Obama for anything.

“It’s not an if-Obama-is-for-it-we-have-to-be-against-it-mentality,” he told me earlier this month. “There are a lot of points of contention, and they need to be worked through to my satisfaction if I’m going to support the final product.”

(MORE: Marco Rubio Responds to Obama’s State of the Union)

So it all depends how badly Rubio really wants reform. As I wrote, it’s a personal issue for him. He comes from a family of immigrants, a community of immigrants. It’s hard to imagine a more influential lobbyist than his mom. He’d also like to transcend his reputation as an achievement-free ideologue; brokering a reform deal would show he’s capable of getting stuff done. And ever since Hispanic voters overwhelmingly rejected Mitt Romney and his “self-deportation” theories, many Republican elites have been warning that the party may be doomed in presidential elections until it can get the immigration issue off the table.

But if Rubio wants to get elected president in 2016, he’ll need to win a Republican primary dominated not by elites, but by Tea Party activists who think of the undocumented as freeloaders and the president as a nightmare. They’re a lot likelier to trust a guy who denied Obama a major victory than a guy who helped him achieve it. Rubio also has to worry about House Republicans (who generally live in fear of their own Tea Party primary challenges) derailing the reform train while he’s still on it, which would make him look ineffectual as well as Obama-appeasing. And the 2016 Republican presidential primary is starting now, while the general election won’t start until 2016; there would be plenty of time for Rubio to pivot back to reform if he won the nomination. Anyway, if Republicans decide that winning back Hispanics is their key to winning back the White House, Marco Antonio Rubio will have a leg up whether reform happens or not.

(PHOTOS: Marco Rubio, Republican Savior)

For now, if Rubio’s swipes at Obama help keep the Limbaughs and Levins of the world from launching an anti-reform crusade, they’re probably helping the cause of reform. And he’s got nothing to lose by pressing Obama to accept stricter enforcement, a more arduous path to citizenship, and other items on conservative wish lists. But eventually, there’s going to be a deal, and he’s going to have to decide whether to take it. With me, at least, he didn’t sound all that optimistic.

“I’m not trying to throw cold water on the effort,” he said. “It’s a good effort, an important effort. But we have to be realistic about the pitfalls that lie ahead. This is a very difficult problem that the country hasn’t solved in over two decades.”

MORE: Will Immigration Reform Work This Time?

26 comments
olegtarkovsky
olegtarkovsky

Look closely.
You have1. Massive immigration, 2. To white countries only 3. Border laws suspended/selectively enforced; Coupled with: 4. Forced integration 5. Racial preference to non-whites 6. Coerced tolerance 7. Socially engineered assimilation/genetic blending.

What is the end result of diversity? Genocide, White Genocide.

How is this not White Genocide – forced immigration + forced tolerance + assimilation = end of White people?
Anti-racist is codeword for anti-White.

CharlesEdwardBrown
CharlesEdwardBrown

What about enforcing the law? NO AMNESTY for illegal aliens. Creating a pathway to US Citizenship for illegal aliens is rewarding them for breaking the law. We want our Federal Government to do their job. Deport all illegal aliens, secure the border and fine anyone who hires an illegal alien. Rubio and Obama don't seem to have a clue. They both still want to reward criminals.

drudown
drudown

What about what the People of the United States want? More importantly, what about what the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment requires: no ethnic group shall receive favorable treatment under law...which is precisely what this proposed "reform" touch and concerns. I find it disheartening that the same GOP elected officials and pundits that prate on and on about the "slippery slope" of any commercially reasonable gun control may lead to the erosion of "our way of life"- or Bill of Rights- seem to have no concept of how their "newfound enlightenment" on providing amnesty to the 20,000,000+ illegal aliens presently in our jurisdiction contravenes the express language of the same Constitution they have repeatedly stated requires a "strict construction". Here, the legal principle of "judicial estoppel" comes to mind, i.e., the GOP leaders cannot invoke "strict construction" at one point of Obama's tenure and then flip flop at a later point simply because they deem it politically advantageous.  Conspicuously, any law school graduate can attest that the proposed amnesty will NEVER pass Constitutional scrutiny. Period. So why propose Legislation that is void ab initio? The only thing that any reasonable person can expect to follow is that every disadvantaged person in this god-forsaken-world is going to say "all I have to do is make it across the border", which, as we all know...simply does NOT exist. What does, however, irrefutably exist is the tremendous fiscal burden that illegal immigration costs our schools, courts, penal and health care systems. These are REAL costs in a time of record deficits. It's called lifeboat ethics + basic mathematics in a unique time in History when the Biosphere itself could change for the materially worse, e.g., droughts and famine. As such, here the GOP wants its cake and eat it too, i.e., if the GOP is really the "fiscally prudent" party, it needs to come clean and identify how EXACTLY our Congress is going to bankroll the social safety net for these illegal aliens that amnesty entails. The majority of the People are OPPOSED to diluting their own voting power for ZERO consideration. Sorry, these people chose to break the law, Senator McCain, to come "mow lawns" or do arguably undesirable jobs as a lower priced labor force, but a lot of desirable blue collar jobs (e.g., construction) have been usurped. So I challenge the proponents to reconcile these "real world" considerations and, above all, the Constitutionality. After all, Lady Liberty is blind and our Congress only has a Fiduciary Duty to the People that are citizens. Which Amendment is next on account of "poor little _______." The rule of law works and is.

bobdame83
bobdame83

Doesnt matter the subject of a Grunwald article; it is just an excuse for him to insult the Tea Party, Republicans and conservatives, and bow to his hero Obama.

jmac
jmac

Rubio - "We have to be realistic about the pitfalls that lie ahead."  That's a good name for controlling right - The Pits.  They really need their own party.  The strangle-hold they have on Republicans and the propaganda media that keeps them in such power is, without question, hurting our country.  At least Bibi has seen the light in Israel and is now trying to work with Livni.  The sooner this group of ya-hoos get their own party, the better.  

DavidFarrar
DavidFarrar

Immigration and "birthright citizenship" must go together before amnesty can be approved.


<blockquote>The idea of a “citizen at birth” has changed over time. Before the 14th Amendment was ratified in 1868, a person born to immigrant parents—even on U.S. soil—was not considered a citizen at birth. The amendment changed that understanding. It states, “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”...<a href="http://www.crfimmigrationed.org/index.php/stuff/187-naturalized-citizens-and-the-presidency" target="_blank">Naturalized Citizens And The Presidency/Constitutional Rights Foundation</a></blockquote>

The bad news is, the power to create this country's 'ruling class'* has been taken from where it was originally placed i.e., in the hands of the we the People, and placed into the hands of Congress by §5 of the 14th Amendment The good news is, we don't have to hold a Constitution convention to change things back to where they were, nor go through the amendment process; all we have to do is pass a simple bill through Congress.

In fact, H.R. 140 has already been resurrected from the 112th Congress, and with a little amending**, can accomplish just such a task -- BEFORE -- any large scale IMMIGRATION bill is passed.

ex animo

davidfarrar

*The ruling class: Art. II, §1, cl. 4 sets the qualification for the presidency and vice-presidency

**Amending H.R. 140 to read:

(b) Definition- Acknowledging the right of birthright citizenship established by section 1 of the 14th amendment to the Constitution, a person born in the United States shall be considered ‘subject to the jurisdiction’ of the United States for purposes of subsection (a)(1) if the person is born in the United States of two U.S. Citizen parents.

Forums4Justice
Forums4Justice

Is poverty-level population growth in our best interest? 

Amnesty for 11 million + Chain Migration ='s 66 million poverty-level draining our social welfare system

Forums4Justice
Forums4Justice

Rio Grande Valley Border Patrol Sector Monthly Apprehensions --316 miles (Source: DHS/CPB)
--------OCT---NOV---DEC--JAN---FEB---MAR--APR---MAY---JUN---JUL--AUG---SEP--TOTAL 
FY2013--8871--8355--6588 +49% over first three months of FY2012 
FY2012--6203--5513--4285--5514--6707--9622-11161-11583-10108-9023--**----**----97,762 +65%

FY2011--3630--3624--3349--3485--4232--6810--6508--5954--5410-5277-5973--5004--59,243 

ARTRaveler
ARTRaveler

The Hispanic Community knows that Rubio isn't like them and the Cuban people reaching American shores are treated far different from those of Central America.  If a Cuban refugee actually touches American soil, he is allow in.  The Central and South American refugees know that they can be sent back anytime.  Not exactly the same rules.  And Rubio needs to decide whether he is an American or just another Tea Pot Republican that hates American success.

Tero
Tero

I love how conservatives are so hyper about immigrants following the rules, but bankers... not so much...

antonmarq
antonmarq

Gee, now who gives a sh*t what Rubio agrees on, the guy is still learning to use the toilet. Leave it to the GOP to continue to think small, or should I say "minor". Using one word in the Spanish language, their "cojones" are shrinking.   

MrObvious
MrObvious

See, it's the ODS that prevent them from actually agreeing even though there is a consensus on most of the ideas. Heaven forbid our elected politicians come together and solve problems. There is this 'icky' factor.

Hollywooddeed
Hollywooddeed

I'm still not sure why it matters what Marco Rubio thinks.

PaulDirks
PaulDirks

The Congress has the responsibility to write legislation and Obama's role is to either sign it or veto it. There is therefore no way he can be blamed for legislative failure UNLESS he vetoes a bill he's been presented. Suggestion to the contrary aren't 'theater". They're lies.


Paul,nnto
Paul,nnto

Rubio may be the latest republican savior (at least for the professional media) but if he runs away from his "signature issue" because he fears a hypothetical challenge from the TPers 4 years down the road then he is just what most of us suspect-a bunch of nothing.

deconstructiva
deconstructiva

Yes, Rubio and Obama Mostly Agree on Immigration. Therefore, That Means Reform Is Likely Impossible (Until Congress is Purged of the Tea Party ...and  McConnell Too - Run, Ashley, Run!).


FIFY, MG. Of course, this has nothing to do with immigration reform and everything to do with irrational hatred of Obama. Rubio faces a Sophie's choice: side with those TP's and doom the R's to further defeat or try to recapture teh establishment center and doom his own '16 hopes. Decisions, decisions.

bobdame83
bobdame83

Obama-bots worship their Messiah, and what any other politician says doesnt matter..  You have a future on the air at MSNBC...

bobcn
bobcn

@deconstructiva

Rubio has to be thinking of how badly Romney's pivot to the center worked for him.  What little credibility Romney had left promptly disappeared. 

Yes.  A Sophie's choice.

Not that Rubio hasn't been willing to pivot in the past.  His current immigration positions are a shift. He previously opposed 'amnesty' for immigrants -- making a sharp distinction between immigrants and Cuban refugees.  When it came out that his own family were not the refugees he had claimed them to be but merely immigrants who had entered and stayed in the country illegally his position (very conveniently) 'evolved'.  


drudown
drudown

@Tero @Forums4Justice 

In other words, I find it disheartening that other liberals like are acting very much like GOP sheep, i.e., they don't want a reasoned and measured debate on the merits. It's scare tactics and insults to obfuscate the threshold issue. And towards what end? That the potential upside of a larger Latino voting bloc outweighs the express mandate of our Nation's very Social Contract? Honestly. 

Explain in simple terms how Amnesty does NOT run afoul of the Equal Protection Clause? You cannot make that argument. So why are so many democrats quick to trample the Constitution? It is absolutely ridiculous. Get a grip people. Sovereignty works and is. 

"Truth fears no trial." - Thomas Fuller, M.D.

drudown
drudown

@Tero @Forums4Justice 

Why do we have law breaking aliens citizenship? Why is the issue (no pun intended) purportedly so "black and white"? I'm not for deportation for illegal aliens. But I don't see how any rational American citizen should acquiesce to unmitigated and unrestrained immigration. There is no reason whatsoever to deny the facts that the illegal Hispanic immigration- coupled with the Supreme Court's decision in Plyer v Doe and its progeny- has changed the very racial makeup of our Nation. Those are facts and you insult other's intelligence by infecting an exceeding complex issue with partisan politics, much less unfounded bigotry. Having been to six continents and seen the extent of the 3rd world, I for one do NOT take my American citizenship for granted. I certainly do not "buy" the argument that "illegal aliens" are something different that CITIZENS of ANOTHER SOVEREIGN. 

Res ipsa loquitur. 


drudown
drudown

@mantisdragon91 @Forums4Justice 

And yet, mantis, they are unequivocally a line item cost to our Budget at the federal, state and municipal level. 

There's no need to impute racism or bigotry. Respond to the merits. Who pays for them? Are they taxed like regular citizens? Isn't it true they send the majority of their earnings back home? Why should we taxpayers foot the bill for their successive generations to "have a better life"? Before anyone dilutes the People's vote...they have to come clean. Slinging mud doesn't raise the requisite revenue now does it?

Hollywooddeed
Hollywooddeed

@bobdame83 You sound like a twelve year old.  But do keep up that narrative.  It's one of the reasons Willard lost in 2012.