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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

When Marco Rubio warned against targeting immigrants as terrorists



After telling audiences that he’s lived the immigration issue, Marco Rubio outlines a tough-on-security approach that raises the possibility of ISIS invading our homes and strikes this promise: “If we aren’t 100 percent sure who you are and why you’re coming to America, you’re not getting in.”

As he navigates the issue he’s most vulnerable to conservatives on, Rubio’s past keeps surfacing. During the last big terrorism scare — 9/11 — Florida got perhaps the earliest look at Rubio’s more moderate immigration views.

Lawmakers in Tallahassee rushed to make policy after the terrorist attacks. But Rubio expressed caution about going too far and in February 2002, he led an effort to defeat a bill that would have required state colleges and universities to provide law enforcement with information on about 58,000 student visa holders.

“I hope nobody here goes home tonight thinking that we’re Captain America and that we’re saving the world by filing this legislation,” Rubio said during a committee meeting. He doubted the bill would make the country safer and “in fact, it’s just a part of what appears to be a pattern of legislation after legislation that unfairly targets a group of people by vast and overwhelming majority, statistically speaking, is here to make their lives better and to contribute to the well-being of this country and not the other direction.”

Rubio’s comments, made as a member of the Select Committee on Security, were in line with his record on immigration. He sponsored legislation to give in-state tuition to children of illegal immigrants. When he was House speaker, a number of tough enforcement bills were killed. Anti-immigration groups went after him.

Rubio wasn’t out of step in questioning the rush for post 9/11 legislation. By February 2002 there were many bills but a “noted lack of momentum for many of them,” the Miami Herald reported. The story went on to say that for some lawmakers, some proposals have taken on a “decidedly anti-immigration tone” and quotes Rubio.

"I'm concerned that by the end of the session, immigrant and foreign-born people who are here in this country legally won't be able to get married without a struggle, get a driver's license without being hassled, and won't be able to go to school without being tracked," said the young Republican from Miami.

Earlier this year then-presidential candidate Rand Paul accused Rubio of striking a “secret agreement” with Chuck Schumer to block amendments to the 2013 Gang of 8 immigration bill, one of which was about student visas. Rubio denied any agreement.

A Rubio spokesman did not return an email seeking comment.

[Last modified: Friday, February 12, 2016 11:29am]


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