Rubio Challenges Clinton on Immigration

Sen. Marco Rubio was on Fox News’ “Outnumbered” last Thursday, where he faced a number of questions on immigration.  Notably, Rubio was asked how his immigration stance compared to Hillary Clinton’s, to which he responded that Clinton’s record on the issue was high on rhetoric but low on achievement (starts at 2:15):

Well I don’t know what her plan is, and she’s never done anything on it of meaning.  She was a U.S. Senator and never did anything on immigration.  She’d give speeches about it.  But, you know, it’s interesting, a couple months ago, she talked about—she’s in favor of all citizenship.  Just a few years ago, she wasn’t even in favor of giving them driver’s licenses.  This has been a dramatic shift on her part and changing of her opinion.

Commenting on the interview, Bloomberg’s Sahil Kapur writes that Rubio’s criticisms of Clinton are misleading, since although she did oppose efforts to give driver’s licenses to undocumented immigrants, she also voted in favor of a comprehensive immigration reform bill in 2007 as well as co-sponsoring several other immigration-related bills during her Senate tenure.  However, it is debatable whether or not these actions were, in fact, meaningful, and as I pointed out here recently, Clinton’s current positions on immigration are clearly more radical than those she has vocally supported in the past.  Rubio’s characterization of Clinton as a flip-flopper has a great deal of merit.

Then again, Rubio is, of course, facing that same accusation himself.  In the Fox News interview, he was asked to defend his own recent change in position on the issue:

Well, there’s no flip-flop.  I still think we need to address it.  I still think the three steps that need to be taken are: We have to enforce the law—we have to prove to people we are enforcing it.  We have to modernize the legal immigration system.  And then we have to deal with the people who are here illegally.

The only thing I’m arguing differently from what I did two years ago is: We can’t do it in one major piece of legislation.  And I speak from experience on that.  The support just isn’t there.  This has been tried on three different occasions in the last ten years, and nothing has happened because people, rightfully, do not trust the federal government on the first piece which is the enforcement piece.

Rubio appears to be arguing that he has not changed his position on the issue itself but only on what the best tactics are to accomplish meaningful reform.  Does this constitute a flip-flop?  While one can detect a certain amount of spin on Rubio’s part, it at least seems evident that he has not shifted his stance nearly as much as Clinton has.  When it comes to making a case on who is more trustworthy on immigration, Rubio is smart to point this out.  This may turn out to be a major vulnerability for Clinton.

Paul Dupont is a legislative assistant for American Principles in Action.