The Corner

Rubio Can’t Defend His Own Immigration Bill

Senator Marco Rubio appeared on a special edition of the Hannity show last night on behalf of the Gang of Eight’s immigration bill, otherwise known as Schumer-Rubio. His case for the bill was unpersuasive and, at times, incoherent. You can see substantial portions of the show in three online videos.

An example of the fundamental problem comes at around 9:30–9:50 into the first video, where Rubio responds to the claim that the border-security provisions of the bill are too weak and too dependent on the actions of unwilling enforcers to be trusted. Here’s my transcription of Rubio’s reply:

The problem is that people do not trust this administration and the federal government in general to do the law. So it’s pretty straightforward and I tell this to people all the time. If we can figure out a way to write a bill that ensures that the border will be secured, I believe immigration reform will happen. If we cannot do that or fail to do that, I do not believe immigration reform can or should happen. And so really, this issue at the end of the day is about getting that part of it right.

This was the first of several times in the broadcast that Rubio distanced himself from his own bill, refusing to defend its security provisions and at least appearing to claim instead that, as it stands at the moment, the bill is unsatisfactory and undeserving of support. Yet Rubio has been defending the bill far and wide, even appearing in an ad on its behalf–an ad that touts the bill’s security provisions. If he’s filmed this ad for the bill, he ought to be able to defend its security provisions. If he can’t defend the security provisions as they now stand, why did he consent to be included in the ad?

A second important passage comes around 2:16–3:30 into the second video. Here’s my transcription:

Hannity: OK, so [border security] has been the biggest area of criticism. Are you working on changing that aspect of it? Rubio: Yes, absolutely. What I’ve told people all the time, and that’s why we have a committee process. You know, in the past, certainly before I got to the Senate, what would happen is that people would go to a room, they’d come up with a bill, they’d draw it up, and then it was a take it or leave proposition. I’m not sure that’s the way it’s supposed to work. I think the way this works is, you have a group of people, or maybe an individual senator or congressman write up a bill as a starting point, but then you have 92 other colleagues in the case of this issue that have their own ideas that come from their own experience, and have their own ways that they want to see this improved. And so we’re in the process of doing that. It’s in the committee now, the judiciary committee, where it’s going to have many more days of hearings, and then it’s got to go to the floor process, not to mention the House.

At this point, Rubio almost sounds as though he’s no longer backing the bill as it stands, as though he’s withdrawn his endorsement and will restore it only on condition that the border-security provisions are substantially tightened in a Senate committee or in the House. Then Hannity puts forth a question:

Hannity: Wouldn’t you have a better, easier time selling this especially to conservatives that are concerned about a second, third, fourth wave of illegal immigration coming into the country, if you just secure the border first. Doesn’t the law now mandate that? Rubio: Yeah, the fundamental problem is–the law does mandate that we secure our border–the fundamental problem we’re having with that, however, is that we have eleven-and-a-half to eleven million people in this country illegally….” Rubio goes on to explain that it’s in America’s best interests to bring those illegal immigrants out of the shadows.

So Rubio first implies that he agrees with critics of the bill’s border-security provisions, and that he will only support a substantially amended bill. Yet when Hannity presses him on the need to secure the border unequivocally before offering amnesty, Rubio explains that amnesty can’t be held hostage to security.

As it stands, Rubio’s Hannity performance is puzzling and incoherent. Either he has declined to publicly defend the security provisions of a bill that he himself has formally endorsed, repeatedly backed in public, and continues to back, or he has implicitly withdrawn support for the bill. Does he support his own bill or not? If not, what changes does Rubio believe are required to the security provisions? Why leave this up to 92 other senators? If Rubio agrees that the security provisions need strengthening, he should tell us what he proposes. It’s fine for a senator to say that he’s open to negotiation with his colleagues on a bill that he nonetheless strongly supports in its current form. It’s something else to serve as the key public pitchman for a bill and then turn around and say it shouldn’t pass without unspecified changes to be proposed by someone else.

Don’t miss Paul Mirengoff’s comments on this aspect of Rubio’s performance in “Marco Rubio’s Embarrassing Appearance On Fox, Part Two.” Rubio did more did more dancing around security issues in the second half of the show, when he was questioned by a panel of immigration experts. Unfortunately, the third web video does not include the first two questioners, who were the toughest, Representative Louie Gohmert and a sheriff who’s an expert on border security.

There were plenty of other problems with Rubio’s responses. When someone asked him whether we should reform entitlements before opening the doors to a flood of new citizens, Rubio agreed that our entitlement system is on a path to disaster but added that we’re headed for disaster with or without immigration reform. How does the fact that we’re going broke anyway make it a good idea to vastly increase the pressure on our entitlement system?

The issue of assimilation barely came up last night, and when Rubio finally mentioned it, he equated assimilation with citizenship. Unfortunately, citizenship does not guarantee assimilation, as I’ve explained elsewhere. It was also odd to see Rubio deny at one point that the Gang of Eight Bill even includes a path to citizenship, while holding out citizenship as the key to assimilation just a few moments later (see the third video).

The bottom line is that we have no business even considering amnesty before our border-security system, entitlement system, and assimilation system have all been reformed. Nothing Rubio said last night on Hannity successfully rebutted this claim, while much that he said tended to support it, against the thrust of his own bill. If this is the best case supporters of Schumer-Rubio can make to conservatives, then there is no serious conservative case for this bill.



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