Back in 2010, then-candidate for U.S. Senate Marco Rubio strongly opposed the “earned path to citizenship” for illegal immigrants, a position very different from the view the Florida Republican has advanced during debates over the Senate’s “Gang of Eight” immigration reform bill.
During a three-way senatorial debate with independent candidate Charlie Crist and Democratic candidate Kendrick Meek, Rubio explained his view, calling the current system “broken.”
“You have to have a legal immigration system that works,” Rubio said. “First of all, the majority of people — let’s understand why people come here even illegally. They come here for jobs. And one of the things that contributes to illegal immigration is that we have a broken legal immigration system. It’s complicated. It’s bureaucratic. It’s difficult to comply with. In Florida, for example, a large percentage of people who are in this state without documents, they entered legally. They overstayed their visas.”
But during that debate, Rubio also made some comments that are at odds with his current position. Rubio seemed to make the case for self-deportation, a position 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney was ridiculed for by his opponent, President Barack Obama.
“And then I think if — and then you’ll have a legal immigration system that works. And you’ll have people in this country that are without documents that will be able to return to the — will be able to leave this country, return to their home land, and try to re-enter through our system that now functions, a system that makes sense.”
But later in that portion of the debate, Rubio varied significantly from his current position, calling the “path to citizenship” code for amnesty.
“First of all, earned path to citizenship is basically code for amnesty,” Rubio said. “It’s what they call it. And the reality of it is this. This has to do with the bottom line that America cannot be the only country in the world that does not enforce its immigration laws. It is unfair to the people that have legally entered this country to create an alternative pathway for individuals who entered illegally and knowingly did so. And all I’m saying is that if you do that…if I may finish my statement on this. If you do that, you will never have a legal immigration system that works. No one is going to follow the law if there is an easier way to do it.”
Over the past month and a half, Rubio has been questioned about these changes and even called out by NBC’s David Gregory April 14 broadcast of “Meet the Press.” His explanation also fell flat for the Annenberg Public Policy Center’s FactCheck.org.
“Rubio is revising history,” Robert Farley wrote for FactCheck.org on April 17. “For starters, Rubio answered the question about whether he’d changed his mind that “an earned pathway was amnesty” by noting that he was consistently against “blanket amnesty.” No such blanket amnesty was under consideration in the years leading up to Rubio’s campaign, however. The two most recent failed immigration overhaul efforts — the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007 and the Secure America and Orderly Immigration Act, which Sen. John McCain introduced in 2005 — both proposed “pathways” to citizenship that included fines, payment of back taxes, probationary status, criminal background checks and proof of employment.”