On Thursday afternoon, Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio was one of the GOP “yes” votes in the so-called “Gang of Eight” immigration legislation that he helped craft.
The legislation will give conditional legal status to illegal immigrants that entered the United States unlawfully, should it pass the House and be signed into law by President Barack Obama.
But in 2009, Rubio wasn’t a fan of amnesty, criticizing the 1986 Simpson-Mazoli Act that President Ronald Reagan signed into law.
In an article in the Nov. 17, 2009 edition of The Palm Beach Post, George Bennett wrote about a Rubio appearance at a Martin County (Fla.) Republican Women, Federated meeting in Stuart, Fla. in which Rubio criticized Reagan’s 1986 effort.
“In 1986 Ronald Reagan granted amnesty to 3 million people,” Rubio said. “You know what happened, in addition to becoming 11 million a decade later? There were people trying to enter the country legally, who had done the paperwork, who were here legally, who were going through the process, who claimed, all of a sudden, ‘No, no, no, no, I’m illegal.’ Because it was easier to do the amnesty program than it was to do the legal process.”
Rubio told the group that amnesty would send the wrong message to those wanting to enter the United States.
“If you grant amnesty, the message that you’re sending is that if you come in this country and stay here long enough, we will let you stay,” he said. “And no one will ever come through the legal process if you do that.”
At the time, Rubio insisted that sealing the border was a prerequisite in dealing with the illegal immigrants in the country, a position he held during his 2010 bid for U.S. Senate, but has since evolved on.
“Only after you deal with illegal immigration in a serious way — seal the border and the visa problem — can you then create a legal immigration system that works. That still leaves you with 11 million people that are here illegally,” Rubio said.
“I think he did it for the right reasons, but I think it ended up working the wrong way,” he added, according to the Post report.
Later in his piece, however, Bennett referenced a Miami Herald story written days earlier by Beth Reinard that cited critics of Rubio for not be a strong proponent of legislation curbing illegal immigration while speaker of the Florida House of Representatives.
“A lot of us are mad at him because he did block those bills,” David Caulkett, a founder of Floridians for Immigration Enforcement, told the Herald. “Rubio claims to be anti-amnesty but the question is, ‘Do we trust him?'”