Florida Republicans speak out on immigration

January 30, 2012

Following another night of Republican primary candidates battling it out over the topic of immigration, Florida Senator Marco Rubio, speaking at a Hispanic Leadership conference in Miami on Friday, struck a conciliatory tone.

“We must admit that there are those among us that have used rhetoric that is harsh and intolerable and inexcusable,” he told the audience. “And we must admit — myself included — that sometimes we’ve been too slow to condemn that language for what it is.”

Rubio’s 20-minute speech, dedicated almost exclusively to the theme of immigration, reached far beyond the narrow Latino confines of Cuban Miami and was, at its heart, a challenge to his Republican colleagues. “I have challenged the Republican nominees and all Republicans to not just be the anti-illegal immigration party,” he said. “That’s not who we are, that’s not who we should be. We should be the pro-legal immigration party.”

There is “broad bipartisan support” for solutions, such as a guest worker system and speeding up the “complicated and burdensome” process for people to obtain U.S. visas, Rubio said. Though he did not endorse the so-called DREAM Act, he said politicians had to find a way “to accommodate” the students of undocumented immigrants who are shut out of educational benefits such as in-state tuition.

A small group of protesters tried to interrupt Rubio’s speech with shouts of, “Why don’t you support undocumented students?” When security officials moved toward the protesters, who were carrying signs that read “Latino or Tea Partino,” Rubio called out, “I ask that you let them stay because I think they’ll be interested in what I’m going to say.” But the protesters were escorted out.

Echoing the words of one of his political mentors, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, Rubio made a personal plea for an American understanding of the immigration phenomenon. Recalling his parents’ own travails when they arrived from Cuba in the late 1950s, he said that most immigrants come to the U.S. looking simply for a better life. “There is no fence high enough; there is no ocean wide enough that most of us would not cross to provide for them what they do not have,” he said. “I hope never again that young people will have to stand up in an event like this and hold up a sign — because the issue’s been taken care of, in one way or another.”

Rubio closed by reading the words of the poem by Emma Lazarus engraved in a plaque inside the Statue of Liberty:

Give me your tired, give me your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shores.
Send these, the homeless, the tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

“This is who we were. For 225 years, this is who we’ve been,” he said. “And the question now is, is this who we will remain?

Speaking earlier at the same event in Miami, Bush warned that the Republican party risks losing the November election if it does not adopt a new strategy to appeal to Hispanic voters. “We have seen a diminishing of [Hispanic] votes at a time when, as our demography changes, Republicans need to be much more focused on them,” he said.

Hispanic voters, who represent an important swing vote in several key swing states, such as Florida, are “turned off” by “the ramifications of the Alabama law and other things like that,” Bush said. “So from a practical political view, putting aside the policy, it makes no sense to me that we are sending these signals.”

Photo credit: Florida U.S. Senator Marco Rubio speaks at a meeting of the Hispanic Leadership Network in Doral, Florida January 27, 2012. REUTERS/Joe Skipper

Photo credit: Young men carrying signs to interrupt remarks by U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) at a meeting of the Hispanic Leadership Network in Doral, Florida, January 27, 2012. REUTERS/Joe Skipper


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Sen. Rubio, the problem is the GOP’s recent courtship of a group whose beliefs are rooted in hate and fear, the ‘tea-party’ type, causes the GOP to become even more dominated by the politics of hate and fear. Until your party evolves from this type of political game playing, it’s policies are always going to be negative instead of positive. E.G. looking to ‘stop’ something instead of fostering environments that allow good things to happen.

Posted by USAPragmatist | Report as abusive

Mr. Rubio, when you or Mr. Romney or any other politician say you are for “pro-legal immigration”, please spell out how you want to address the greencard backlog that has put more than 300,000 legal applicant families in limbo many of them waiting for more than 10 years living already in USA. Please do not attack “illegal immigration” without providing relief to existing legal immigrants. When it comes to “legal immigration” anti-immigration groups try to confuse the issue with high unemployment rate. Unemployment rate should curtail future inflow not exisitng legal residents. Please distance yourself with such forces and show action on greencard backlog. If you cannot solve legal immigration greencard issues, how would you expect the illegal immigrants go back and apply for legal immigration? Do you think illegals will wait for 20 years from now to reenter USA? Please think on this line and get away from the bigotry of anti-immigration forces.

Posted by NoBigotry | Report as abusive

Florida http://bit.ly/gMhBrZ

Posted by Warof2010 | Report as abusive

I’m glad that Senator Rubio and other prominent GOP leaders are addressing the dire need for the GOP to adopt a more compassionate tone with respect to the immigration debate. I cannot help but think of President Reagan’s approach to this issue back in the mid 1980s and contrast that with the current approach that today’s GOP candidates have taken. President Reagan fully supported the implementation of an immigration act that effectively legalized nearly 3 million undocumented immigrants in this country (but that also cracked down on businesses that were exploiting the undocumented). Reagan had the sense to realize that these individuals who have no criminal record and who are here doing the jobs Americans do not want to do have the potential to enrich this country on many levels. I am a young registered Republican and I also happen to be Hispanic. I recognize the need for a sensible immigration policy that preserves our nation’s national security, but that also recognizes America’s need for immigrants and the many benefits immigrants bring to a country. Given my position, I am very much a fan of the Hispanic Leadership Network’s immigration policy stance. You can find it here: http://hispanicleadershipnetwork.org/201 2/01/immigration/

I really think that the Hispanic Leadership Network has it right when it comes to figuring out an immigration policy that works for all Americans and for those waiting to become Americans. As Senator Rubio stated at the conference, we must not forget who we are as a country and what values we hold dear!

Posted by mmarie55 | Report as abusive