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Posts Tagged ‘Marco Rubio’

Marco Rubio and the New Cuban Identity

This week’s Intersection podcast from New Republic focuses on Florida senator Marco Rubio and how his presidential campaign is being viewed through the “through the lens of identity politics.” As the podcast asks: “How do race, gender, class, and other identities play into the candidate’s campaign, and the image he or she wants voters to buy into?” Host Jamil Smith had a very lively conversation with our very own Julio Ricardo VarelaAndrea Pino of End Rape on Campus and Alfredo Estrada of Latino Magazine.

Rubio Calls for Three Steps to Immigration Reform

Last night during the New Hampshire 2016 Republican Candidates “Voters First Forum,” Florida senator and Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio was asked about immigration. Here is a clip of what he said via C-SPAN:

Breitbart posted a full transcript of Rubio’s response. What follows is an excerpt of Rubio’s initial comments:

“[Immigration] cannot be fixed in one massive comprehensive piece of legislation. There is only one way forward, and it will require three steps, and they have to happen in the following sequence. First, we have to prove to the American people that illegal immigration is under control. It’s not good enough to just say, ‘We’re going to pass a law that will bring it under control.’ People demand to see it. They want to see the fence. They want to see more border agents. They want to see more drones and cameras and ground sensors. But they also recognize that over 40% of the people in this country illegally entered legally, and overstayed a visa. And that’s why we need an electronic verification system that employers must comply with, or they will be heavily fined. And that’s why we need an entry/exit biometric system at our seaports and airports. So that we know when people are overstaying visas and we can identify them. That is the key that unlocks the ability to make progress on anything else when it comes to immigration.”

Although Rubio was one of the senators who pushed for a bipartisan Gang of Eight comprehensive immigration reform bill which passed the Senate in the summer of 2013, he also kept asking that more changes be made to the bill before a formal vote. For example, in the spring of 2013, Rubio issued a statement about the bill. In that statement, he said this:

We have made substantial progress, and I believe we will be able to agree on a legislative proposal that modernizes our legal immigration system, improves border security and enforcement and allows those here illegally to earn the chance to one day apply for permanent residency contingent upon certain triggers being met. However, that legislation will only be a starting point.

Has Rubio (who has seen his poll numbers slipping) changed his views on immigration reform from the days of the Gang of Eight or are his words from New Hampshire last night a refinement of what he was saying in 2013?

Latino USA reached out twice to the Rubio campaign to see if it could elaborate on the senator’s most recent comments, but as of this posting, the campaign has not responded. (If the campaign does respond, we will share any updates.)


Daniel Garza, Executive Director of the LIBRE Initiative, a right-leaning Latino empowerment and voter outreach organization, shared the following with Latino USA about Rubio’s immigration stance:


“I think it’s good for the Latino community to have one of their own, as a top-tier candidate, bringing pragmatic ideas. Much of what he has expressed and his narrative, is one that is common to us. Senator Rubio spoke out on the issue of immigration, and showed leadership, even when it was unpopular for those in his own party.  And while the passage of the Senate bill was a step in the right direction, many understood the bill was not perfect and that improvements were needed.

While Senator Rubio has expressed mistrust over the Administration’s ability to honor the legislation as passed, he has also made his sentiments clear—the need for reform has not diminished. Regrettably, when House leadership began to advance ideals, with the release of their principles, they were met with threats and eventual Administration action by the President, which ended the debate in Congress.  It was an outcome many predicted.  Congress must act to provide the legal avenues necessary to absorb the current undocumented population, accommodate for future immigrant flows, and address the issues on the border. Each part is essential.”

Nonetheless, Democrats are using Rubio’s New Hampshire comments to claim that Rubio has always been out of touch with U.S. Latino voters, even though the Florida senator is of Cuban descent. Pablo Manriquez, the Democatic National Committee’s Hispanic Media Director, told Latino USA the following:


“Last night in New Hampshire, Marco Rubio proved just how far he’s run from the reform bill he once supported by giving a lengthy response to an immigration question in which he used the word ‘citizenship’ exactly zero times. Before that he called for ‘less Sotomayors’ on the Supreme Court. Sadly, Marco Rubio’s 21st Century agenda is a comprehensive push backwards on everything from marriage equality, on the Affordable Care Act, on women’s rights, and more. Latino voters deserve better.”

Writer and political observer Adriana Maestas indicated to Latino USA that Rubio has indeed moved away from his initial Gang of Eight efforts:


“Marco Rubio is trying to distance himself from the work that he did with the Gang of Eight comprehensive immigration reform bill that he voted for in 2013 and that did have a path to citizenship, albeit a long and arduous road. Rubio is essentially pandering to the Donald Trump wing of his party asking for more border agents, drones and ground sensors at a time when the border is already heavily monitored.  

The Border Patrol is already the largest law enforcement agency in the country and has been plagued with criticisms of misconduct. Instead of asking for accountability and showing fiscal  restraint, Rubio’s rhetoric falls in line with the priorities of his donors in the private prison industry.”

Immigrant reform advocate Frank Sharry of America’s Voice has followed the immigration politics of Washington for years. When asked about what Rubio said last night, this is what Sharry said to Latino USA:


“Rubio championed a comprehensive immigration reform bill that passed the Senate on a bipartisan basis. It combined three elements – enforcement, legal immigration reforms and a path to citizenship for most of the 11 million. Then, when his polls in early primary states seemed to take a hit, he came out against a comprehensive approach. 

Now he says we have to do the three elements in sequence, when he knows full well that such an approach would never, ever pass the Congress. The Republicans are too divided and the Democrats are too united. The only thing that can pass is comprehensive immigration reform —with all Democrats and some Republicans— but only if Republican leaders step up and lead rather than turn tail and run. Rubio was a champion of the cause. Now he’s a traitor to it.”

Stephen A. Nuño, associate professor in the Department of Politics and International Affairs at Northern Arizona University and a contributor at NBCNews-Latino, explained to Latino USA that Rubio “failed miserably” last night:


“Marco Rubio failed miserably last night in his discussion on immigration. His message was the same throwback message of the GOP since the Prop 187 debate in California 25 years ago. The GOP lost that debate already. He’s essentially Donald Trump with good hair.”

What do you think of Rubio’s immigration position? Tweet me @julito77 with your thoughts or add your comments below.

A Latino Running Mate Won’t Win Romney ‘The Latino Vote’

It looks like Mitt Romney is going to announce his vice presidential running mate well before the Republican convention gets underway in Tampa at the end of August. Many people speculate that Romney will choose a Latino. The question is: Who would it be and will it make a difference to Latino voters?

Romney is a tough sell to most Latinos. During the primaries, the GOP candidates seemed to be competing to out-anti-illegal-immigrant each other. Romney came on pretty strong in his support for strict enforcement of immigration laws, even urging undocumented immigrants to “self deport” themselves. But in the general election he’s hoping Latinos will forget all of that and focus on the economy. Fat chance.

What Romney fails to accept is that while Latinos are as concerned with unemployment and the recession as anyone else, immigration is still a huge issue for them. Romney’s standing with Latinos became even more problematic after President Obama announced a new policy that will help undocumented college kids stay in the country legally, a move incredibly well received by the Latino community.

The name most often mentioned as a Latino VP pick is Marco Rubio. The young Cuban-American senator from Florida is popular among Tea Partiers and conservatives. Rubio is probably the best known Republican Latino politician out there right now. He’s practically a household name and his nomination would lock up the Cuban-American vote for Romney. But Romney already has their support, so why work hard on a sure thing? Cuban-Americans aren’t that concerned with immigration policy, as their path to citizenship is totally different from that of other Latinos. Rubio is a strident opponent of unauthorized immigration, which is a big turn off for most Latinos other than Cubans. It’s doubtful that nominating Rubio would change many people’s vote. Political commentators are starting to agree with me, even conservative ones like Fox News’ Sean Hannity.

Another possibility is Puerto Rico Governor Luis Fortuño. He was an early supporter of Romney during the primaries. Fortuño has strong conservative economic credentials and is an outspoken proponent of having Puerto Rico join the Union as the 51st state.

Picking Fortuño would be a way for Romney to try to attract Puerto Rican votes, especially in the crucial swing state of Florida. But historically, Puerto Ricans have voted Democratic.  It would be a stretch for Romney to change this precedent.

It’s doubtful that picking Fortuño would be enough of an incentive for the majority of Puerto Ricans to vote Republican. While they may be glad that a Boricua is on the ballot, many still disagree with conservative Republican policies. Also, Fortuño’s pro-statehood stance isn’t very popular among Puerto Ricans on or off the island. Four times in recent years Puerto Ricans have voted to maintain the status quo and not join the Union.

New Mexico governor Susana Martinez is another possible candidate for VPOTUS. She’s not as well known as Rubio or Fortuño, but the benefit of Martinez is that she’s a double threat: a woman and a Latina. The thinking goes that she could attract both female and Latino voters because of her ancestry and gender.

The problem with Martinez is that she is a controversial figure. She admitted that her grandparents came to New Mexico as undocumented workers, which was not popular among anti-illegal immigration conservatives. She tried to win them over by passing a law making it nearly impossible for undocumented workers to obtain driver’s licenses in her state, but that wasn’t popular with Latinos. Martinez, unlike Rubio and Fortuño, has experience with the plight of the undocumented in her own family and yet is actively working to make things harder on recent immigrants.  Would Romney risk alienating his conservative base for a nominee that many Latinos see as a traitor?

So while it’s conceivable that Romney will pick a Latino as his running mate,  it probably won’t happen simply because it won’t make a big enough difference for the Republican ticket.  Yes, it’s true that the Latino vote could be a deciding factor in a number of key states and the GOP needs to find a way to capture that vote. But will Latinos who support the rights of undocumented workers—and in many instances have undocumented family members—vote for a candidate just because the person running with him has a Spanish last name?  Probably not.  If Republicans really want to win over Latino voters they need to do more than rely on symbolism that the GOP is their amigo.

Fi2W is supported by the New York Community Trust and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation with additional support from the Ralph E. Odgen Foundation and the Sirus Fund. Image courtesy of flickr

Jack Tomas is a writer, filmmaker, and editor working in New York. He’s originally from Houston, TX where he earned a BA in Theater and Communication from The University of St. Thomas. Later, he received an MA in Media Studies at The New School. Jack has worked several years as a professional filmmaker and his films have appeared in several film festivals including the Cannes Film Festival, The LA Comedy Shorts Festival, and The New York Independent Film Festival. He has also worked as a professional blogger since 2009 writing for,,, and He lives in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn with his wife Marybec and two cats.


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