On Friday, attendees at a Value Voters Summit in Washington, D.C. booed Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump when Trump called Sen. Marco Rubio, another Republican candidate, a “clown” who’s “in favor of immigration.”
“You have this clown, Marco Rubio,” Trump said. “I’ve been so nice to him.”
At that point, the assembled crowd of Christian, conservative voters at the Omni Shoreham Hotel began to jeer.
Trump continued: “I’ve been so nice and then — no — but he’s in favor of immigration, and he has been, he has been, it was the Gang of Eight. And you remember the Gang of Eight. It was terrible and then he went down in the polls, and you have to stay, you know what, if you believe in something, you have to be true to yourself.” (RELATED: Donald Trump Gets Booed For Calling Marco Rubio A ‘Clown’ At Values Voter Summit)
Trump’s brash statement that Rubio is or was “in favor of immigration” omits the fact that, at the time when Rubio and his Gang of Eight was pushing immigration reform, Trump was far weaker on deterring illegal immigration than Rubio was. Since that time, Trump has been wildly inconsistent on the issue.
Trump’s current hardline immigration position is at odds with his years-long feat of waffling on immigration that continues to this day. (RELATED: From Immigration To Guns To Abortion, Donald Trump Must Reckon With His Progressive History)
In mid-August, Trump released his campaign’s current immigration plan. It calls for an end to birthright citizenship for the children of illegal immigrants and “a wall across the southern border.” He wants Mexico to pay for the wall. He also wants to triple the number of immigration enforcement officials, to defund sanctuary cities and to deport criminal illegal immigrants.
At the same time, the 69-year-old real estate magnate currently endorses a “merit system” for illegal immigrants who already reside in the U.S.
“If somebody’s been outstanding, we try and work something out,” Trump explained in July 2015, a day after a tour of the U.S.-Mexico border.
As recently as 2012 — shortly before Rubio and the Gang of Eight pushed for a sweeping new immigration law — Trump endorsed a broad pathway to citizenship for millions of illegal aliens. U.S. immigration policy “must take care of this incredible problem that we have with respect to immigration, with respect to people wanting to be wonderful productive citizens of this country,” he told journalist Ronald Kessler in the immediate aftermath after the 2012 election.
Also in 2012, Trump condemned Republicans for “mean-spirited” attacks on illegal immigration and a “maniacal” policy of self-deportation. He suggested that hostility on immigration partially cost Mitt Romney the presidency.
In 2011, Trump suggested that the way to deal with America’s 15 million illegal immigrants is on a case-by-case basis. “You know, it’s hard to generalize,” Trump told Bill O’Reilly. “You’re going to have to look at the individual people.”
In 1999, Trump said he supported stringent restrictions on immigration. “I think that too many people are flowing into the country,” he told Tim Russert on Meet the Press then.
Thus, Trump was a strong immigration opponent in 1999 but a strong proponent of a generous pathway to legal status in 2011 and 2012. By 2015, he had switched to opposition to immigration except that he supports a generous and fluid merit system for illegal immigrants.
As a real estate developer, Trump has demonstrated no commitment to limiting immigration. Records show that he consistently hires both low-skill legal immigrants and low-paid illegal immigrants.
According to an August 2015 analysis by Reuters, the billionaire businessman’s various companies have imported at least 1,100 foreign workers since 2000. Since 2006, Trump’s genteel, 62,000-square-foot Mar-a-Lago Club resort in Palm Beach, Fla. (which charges $100,000 for membership privileges alone) has sought to import 787 foreign laborers.
During the last 30 years, Trump has employed illegal aliens for his multitude of construction projects — at rates as low as $5 per hour, according to testimony in a federal lawsuit.
A worker at the construction site of the posh, soon-to-be-opened $200 million Trump International Hotel near the White House in Washington, D.C., has claimed that Trump currently employs many illegal immigrants as laborers. “The majority of us are Hispanics, many who came illegally,” a stone mason working on the hotel told The Washington Post — in Spanish — in July 2015.
In comparison to Trump, Rubio, who was first elected to public office in 2000, has consistently supported a modest, practical approach to illegal immigration which involves increased border security, modernization of the legal immigration system and — like Trump in July 2015 — a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants who can meet several benchmarks.
As Trump noted on Friday, Rubio was part of a bipartisan group of senators dubbed the “Gang of Eight.” The eight senators proposed a comprehensive immigration package in 2013 — shortly after Trump condemned Republicans for “mean-spirited” attacks on illegal immigration and called illegal immigrants “people wanting to be wonderful productive citizens of this country.”
The 2013 bill, which failed, addressed both legal and illegal immigration. Rubio appeared to distance himself from the bill before its failure.
In May 2015, Rubio said he remains committed to the policies he endorsed in 2013. He would push the same policies today, he said, changing only the approach to implementing them. (RELATED: Rubio Doubles Down On Gang Of Eight)
Rubio emphasized securing the border in the 2013. He still emphasizes it today, though he now says the border must be secured before any push for comprehensive immigration reform can occur.
The actions Obama has taken to grant legal status to millions of immigrants, combined with the the influx of Central American children crossing the southern border have made it clear border security must come first, the Florida senator said.
Asked at the National Review Institute what he would change, Rubio said he was right in predicting that failure to pass a comprehensive immigration reform bill would result in executive action from President Barack Obama.
Rubio said this spring that the federal government must be “reasonable” about the problem posed by illegal immigrants already in the country, and that after “securing the border” and “modernizing” the legal immigration system, he would provide many a path to citizenship.
Those here a decade or more would have to undergo a strict background check, pay a fine, start paying taxes and learn English to earn permanent legal status, the Republican said in May. Eventually they could “get in line” and apply for citizenship under the same rules as everyone else.
Rubio also reiterated his position that America’s immigration system should be reformed based on economic realities. It should prioritize skilled workers over those with family ties, he urged, so the top talent in the world is incentivized to come and not only work in the U.S., but also become citizens.
The 2013 Gang of Eight bill would have significantly increased the number of immigrants and foreign workers allowed into the country, and given a path to legal status for those already here illegally.
Under the Gang of Eight bill, the immigrant worker population would have grown at the fastest rate in American history, hitting a record high of 15 percent of the population by 2020, or one in seven Americans, according to an analysis of Congressional Budget Office numbers by the Center for Immigration Studies, a research group that favors low immigration numbers.
At the same time, the current system allows fewer people to enter legally but illegal immigrants are able to enter fairly easily — and stay. (RELATED: Census Data Shows Record High 61.8 MILLION People In USA Speak Foreign Language In Homes)
Asked about the challenge of assimilating the huge numbers of immigrants coming into the country, he acknowledged the struggle.
“We have a challenge in this country assimilating people who are born and raised here, too,” he observed.