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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

In Florida, tea party criticism and praise for Rubio's role in immigration



A Martin County tea party group plans to protest outside Sen. Marco Rubio’s office tomorrow (h/t SharkTank) revealing strains in the relationship since Rubio became the national face of immigration reform.

“He hasn’t broken any shovels, but we’re upset with his recent action on immigration,” Jim McGovern, an organizer with the Martin 9/12 Committee, told the Buzz.

“We have some disagreement over our definition of amnesty. He’s claiming the requirement for individuals now considered undocumented aliens would be onerous and it would be less difficult to go back to their home country and apply there. We disagree with opening that door.”

McGovern said tea party members are upset with the closed-door process Rubio and the Gang of 8 has followed to produce the legislation, set for release tomorrow. He said Rubio also talked as a candidate about the dangers of huge, comprehensive bills.

Rubio was widely associated with the rise of the tea party in 2010, even as he kept footing in the GOP establishment. A fallout with grassroots conservatives could be problematic if he follows through with a run for president.

But other tea party leaders in Florida say they trust Rubio on the issue.

“He’s tried to push that we need to secure the borders first,” said Sharon Calvert, co-founder of the Tampa Tea Party. “The reality of the situation is the problem needs to be deal with. It’s an issue the Republican Party needs to deal with. Rubio understands why people come to our country and he’s trying to deal with it so we don’t have to again.”

Clyde Fabretti, co-founder of the West Orlando Tea Party, was more emphatic.

“Whenever you hear he’s losing face with conservatives, that’s bunk. The real grassroots tea party movement, the boots on the ground, we support his leadership. We really believe, as he does, that a precondition to any deal must be to secure the border. Rubio is consistent about that.”

Echoing points Rubio has made, Fabretti added: “We have de facto amnesty today. These folks living in the country are enjoying the fruits of living in America. There’s no way we’re going to bus everybody back home. There’s going to have to be some mechanism that brings these folks out of the shadows. It needs to be punitive.”

Rubio, he said, “is what he is. He’s always been conservative in our view.”

[Last modified: Monday, April 15, 2013 12:57pm]


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