But on Thursday, Schumer dropped a political anvil on him by gutting his part of the overhaul.
Rubio joined Schumer’s Jan. 28 announcement of deal because it was built on Rubio’s proposal to pair citizenship awards for roughly 11 million illegal immigrants to an independent group that would declare when the border is secured.
But on Jan. 31, Schumer redefined the deal during a press conference, embarrassing Rubio, who is a potential GOP candidate for the White House in 2016.
“In our blueprint, or what we’ve talked about, I don’t know if [a border-security trigger] is explicitly in the blueprint,” he said.
“We set up a committee of border-state people, [and] the purpose of that committee is to get input from them, to have them be part of the process, for them to understand that we’re not going to roll over them, but get a great deal of input.”
“What we’ve proposed is that the [federal Department of Homeland Security] secretary —- whomever it is —- will have final say” on when enforcement is deemed sufficient to begin awarding citizenship to illegal immigrants, he said.
Rubio’s press aides downplayed the differences. “The [Jan. 28] principles were clear that the commission would be an important metric towards verifying that the border is secure,” said press aide Alex Conant. “The senators are writing actual legislation. If that legislation does not include real security triggers, including the input of border officials and law enforcement, then Sen. Rubio will not support it.”
Schumer’s rejection of Rubio’s trigger plan wasn’t a surprise to the immigration reformers who believe Democrats and their allied ethnic lobbies want to invite many Democratic-leaning Hispanic immigrants into the United States.
“Schumer revealed what we suspected all along — there was never any sincere commitment to real enforcement on the border and enforcement of immigration law,” said a Senate staffer.
Most immigration reformers want Congress to pass several modest reforms that would gradually strengthen immigration enforcement on the border, at airports and in workplaces. In contrast, President Barack Obama, Schumer and ethnic lobbies want Congress to develop a big “comprehensive” bill that would rewrite large sections of immigration law.
Some of the criticism aimed at Rubio was on the record.
“I just think he’s amazingly naive on this issue,” Louisiana Republican Sen. David Vitter said Jan. 30 on Laura Ingraham’s radio show. (RELATED AUDIO: Vitter calls Rubio “nuts”)
Rubio signed on to the deal — and joined Schumer at a Jan. 28 press conference —- before the trigger plan was detailed by Schumer’s staffers.
During a Jan. 28 appearance on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show, Rubio said the trigger was not fully developed.
“The only way that I know to guarantee that [enforcement] happens is to use it as a trigger, to basically say that the path towards a green card does not begin until we can certify that the border is secure, that workplace enforcement method is in place, and the visa tracking system is in place,” he said.
“I think the [independent] commission is a critical part of that,” he said. “Whether they issue recommendations, whether they judge whether that’s the case, that’s one of the things we’ll have to discuss … we need to figure out their role, but it has to be [a] valuable role,” he said.
The next day, Jan. 29, Rubio toughened his language during an appearance on Rush Limbaugh’s radio show.
“If, in fact, this bill does not have real triggers in there, if there is not language in this bill that guarantees that nothing else will happen unless these enforcement mechanisms are in place, I won’t support it,” he said.
“The principles clearly call for that. Now, obviously, we have to make sure the law does, too,” Rubio said.
Schumer’s denial of any trigger comes two days after President Barack Obama began publicly pushing for a process that would include no hindrances to illegal immigrants’ path to citizenship.
“For comprehensive immigration reform to work, it must be clear from the outset that there is a pathway to citizenship,” he told a Las Vegas rally of cheering Hispanic students.