Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Sen. Marco Rubio's role in immigration debate draws tea party criticism

Sen. Marco Rubio has had a special relationship with the tea party.

Associated Press

Sen. Marco Rubio has had a special relationship with the tea party.

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio was lifted to national prominence with help from the tea party, but his leadership on immigration reform has elicited strong reaction from members of the conservative movement, from outrage to acceptance.

"A lot of members are saying it's an amnesty bill. They're not happy with him," said Everett Wilkinson of South Florida, who heads the newly named Liberty Federation boasting more than 100,000 members.

Wilkinson said he has been in contact with Rubio's office and has asked for information to help explain Rubio's thinking to tea party members.

"Most of them are upset. We feel there are other issues he could be focused on," Wilkinson said, citing the debt. "It could hurt him with the tea party but it's too early to say. This whole thing could go off like an Acme rocket. You never know what direction it's going to go. He may hop off it."

But Henry Kelley of the Florida Tea Party Network said members he has been in touch with are generally supportive of Rubio's approach, which calls for tougher enforcement before a pathway to citizenship kicks in.

"I've always said 'round them up and throw them out' is not a strategy," Kelley said. "It's time to deal with this. I don't see this as amnesty."

Since joining the debate last month, Rubio has aggressively sold his message to just about anyone who will listen. On Tuesday alone he appeared on Univision, Telemundo, CNN en Espanol and Fox News' American Morning and did interviews with Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Mike Huckabee and Mark Levin, an ultra-conservative radio host.

Largely he has quieted dissent from conservative thought leaders, providing hope that he can deliver Republican votes.

But in recent days another side has surfaced. A piece Wednesday by an editor from National Review was headlined "Marco Rubio's bad deal." Erick Erickson of the influential Red State blog wrote: "I don't like Marco Rubio's plan. There I said it."

Twitter has lit up with criticism.

@SteveNewcomer wrote: "How quick the Tea Party candidates turn! RUBIO IS ANOTHER SELL-OUT! "

@BarryOCommunist wrote, "@marcorubio you're dead to me. No this isn't a threat but rather an observation. You're a sell out just like the rest of #GOP."

Twitter is hardly a scientific guide of public sentiment, but the grief has been steady. Rubio is also receiving praise.

"I appreciated your honesty and passion while on Limbaugh," wrote Robert C. Howington, who describes himself on Twitter as a schoolteacher, home builder and conservative.

Rubio has a special relationship with the tea party. Though he was long an establishment Republican, serving nine years in the Florida House, the tea party gave him a boost in his 2010 U.S. Senate race against then-Republican Gov. Charlie Crist.

Rubio played down the political implications, saying feedback he has gotten has been helpful. His office has been interacting with tea party members on immigration for the past year, and a conference call is being considered as the debate begins to reach a boil.

"I wouldn't call it backlash," Rubio said in an interview Thursday. "Look, there are people that have very bad memories about some of the efforts in the past that have been made to reform immigration."

He stressed that the plan he has signed onto is only a set of principles that need to be formed into legislation. Asked about the risk of being involved, he said, "I haven't done a political analysis of this. I just think this country has a problem and we have to address it once and for all."

There's little doubt Rubio, who campaigned in 2010 on a mostly hard-line approach to immigration, sees the shifting mood. How successful the GOP is in reversing its declining support among Hispanics could help determine Rubio's fortunes as a future presidential candidate.

Rubio acknowledges that fixing immigration alone won't turn Hispanics to the GOP but says it will clear the way for him and others to pitch the virtues of smaller government.

"Some raise valid points and I respect their views," he wrote in response to Erickson's critical blog. "But in the end, to leave things the way they are now is de facto amnesty and a barrier to accomplishing important government reforms in other areas. It is no way to run a nation of immigrants."

Alex Leary can be reached at leary@tampabay.com.

Sen. Marco Rubio's role in immigration debate draws tea party criticism 01/31/13 [Last modified: Friday, February 1, 2013 3:28pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Every Little Thing podcast
  2. Goodbye Tampa Bay Express, hello Tampa Bay Next; but toll lanes aren't going anywhere

    Transportation

    TAMPA — Tampa Bay Express is dead.

    But it's replacement — Tampa Bay Next — will likely include many of the same projects, including express toll lanes on the rebuilt Howard Frankland Bridge.

    The Florida Department of Transportation on Monday announced that it was renaming its Tampa Bay Express plan, also known as TBX. The plan will now be known as Tampa Bay Next, or TBN. DOT officials say there are still re-evaluating the most controversial aspect of the old TBX plan: spend $6 billion to add 90 miles of toll roads to bay area highways - Interstates 4,75 and 275 - that are currently free of tolls. But TBN will keep the plan to add express toll lanes to the rebuilt Howard Frankland Bridge. [Florida Department of Transportation]
  3. Trigaux: Tampa Bay lands on Forbes 2017 ranking of best places for young professionals

    Working Life

    Consider this one more notch in the belt of Tampa Bay starting to win serious attention from millennials as place to live and build a career.

    Mike Griffin is a senior managing director in Tampa for Savills Studley Occupier Services, which provides integrated real estate services. He is also chairman for 2017 of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce, the first of the next generation of leadership emerging in this metro market. [Courtesy of Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce]
  4. Column: Trump beat Bush, Rubio but has become an 'establishment sellout'

    Blogs

    NYT’s Ross Douthat's Sunday column: Donald Trump, Establishment Sellout

  5. Haitians get a reprieve from Trump administration

    Blogs

    Haitians living in Florida, and the rest of the country, will be allowed to stay an additional six months, federal officials have decided.