Obama's immigration directive 'amnesty' to many Republicans but not Marco Rubio
President Obama's decision blocking deportations of young illegal immigrants led to a swift branding effort by Republicans captured in a single, powerful word: AMNESTY.
But U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio is refusing to the same. "I think there are some people that would define amnesty as anything that involves not enforcing the immigration laws," Rubio told the Tampa Bay Times. "But in my mind, amnesty has always been a special pathway to citizenship that circumvents existing law."
Obama's plan does not create a pathway. So by Rubio's definition, it's not amnesty.
Rubio, of course, was working on a plan similar to what Obama did. The Florida Republican's proposal would create non-immigrant visas for the same group of people. Rubio's answer not only highlights division among the GOP on a delicate issue but also the long odds he faced even if Obama had not pre-empted him.
As Rubio's plan got more notice, so did the amnesty calls. Rubio says Obama's move poisons any progress he made (and certainly the partisan lines are hardened) but the climate was tough already, which may explain why after three months Rubio had yet to produce a bill. That lag gave Obama an opening, and he took it.
Even Obama concedes his is a stop-gap. So why wouldn't Rubio continue to work his plan, or push for the broader immigration overhaul Democrats and Republicans say is clearly needed after Monday's Supreme Court decision on the Arizona law?
"I've just made an observation, which is given that (Obama) decision it's going to be harder to get anything done before the election, and much harder to do it in a bipartisan fashion," Rubio replied. "As I've said repeatedly, I hope that I am wrong. I hope that we can still do it and I think the idea we are crafting is one that should unify people not divide them. But the impression I get just talking to people in the week after, is it's going to be harder, for something that was already pretty difficult."
A few days before Obama acted, Rubio conceded his plan might not get accomplished before the election, but cited a raft of big issues still before congress rather than resistance he was encountering.
Still, Rubio said in the interview this week that he's not done. "We'll continue to develop the idea, we'll continue to talk about it."
So you're not giving up on it? "I never said I was. What I said was when he made that decision I thought it was going to be harder to get something done in the short term before the election."
Of the Obama decision, Rubio said:
"I just think politically they couldn't resist acting on it. What really troubled me and what really confirms to me that this is the approach they took is that when my idea originally emerged and I began to discuss it in greater detail, the left almost immediately began to attack it. Whether it was Harry Reid's op/ed in the Miami Herald ... I was accused of proposing a new three-fifths compromise. Somebody called it apartheid. Just really outrageous attacks. It was documented by Peter Wallsten how the White House called in Dream Act kids and told them not to work with me. Those aren't the actions of people that are genuinely looking to elevate an issue above politics."