Many conservatives — and, indeed, many people — have been confused about what, exactly, Marco Rubio’s position is on immigration now that he’s said he regrets his support for the failed Gang of Eight bill. In an interview with New Hampshire’s local ABC station on Friday, Rubio made clear that he remains a supporter of a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants.
“I do,” Rubio said, when asked if he supports a path to citizenship for those currently in the United States illegally. First, though, Rubio said lawmakers have to “prove to the American people that illegal immigration is under control,” implement an e-verify system, and modernize our legal immigration system.
“After we’ve done those two steps, I believe the American people will be very generous but responsible about what you do with those that have been here a long time,” Rubio said.
Since the collapse of the negotiations over the Gang of Eight bill, Rubio has said consistently that trying to pass a big immigration bill was a mistake, and that lawmakers should pass immigration legislation piecemeal. What’s been less clear is whether Rubio still supports all of the individual parts of the Gang of Eight bill were they to come up one at a time, which would indicate his objections to it now are less ideological than procedural — though, practically speaking, it’s difficult to see Congress passing many parts of the bill on their own, hence the push for a big, compromise bill.
On the path to citizenship in particular, he has at times come across as deliberately vague. Back in April, when he was asked about the Obama administration’s DACA policy, which exempts those who entered the U.S. illegally under the age of 16 from deportation, he said, “I’ve always said that eventually that will not be the permanent policy of the United States. It will have to come to an end at some point. And I hope it comes to an end because we’ve improved our immigration laws, we’ve improved the way we enforce our immigration laws, so that future illegal immigration is under control and third, that we’ve been able to accommodate those people who have been in the country for a long period of time, especially young people.”
The remarks he offered on Friday give a better sense of where Rubio stands.