Policy: Immigration

The reality of Marco Rubio’s immigration problem

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National Journal‘s Jill Lawrence has a post up on “The Myth of Marco Rubio’s Immigration Problem,” noting that while Rubio has taken some “heat” for supporting a path to citizenship, “almost every other GOP 2016 prospect” supports a path too.

“Florida Sen. Marco Rubio is losing altitude with some conservatives because he’s the Republican face of immigration reform that includes a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants,” Lawrence writes, “Yet he’ll have a lot of company in the 2016 field if he runs for the GOP presidential nomination.”

Lawrence goes on to mention that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., have all voiced support for a path to citizenship at some time in the past.

But Christie has not endorsed the actual bill Rubio produced, while Jindal and Perry have both recently come out against it. And while an erroneous AP report first suggested that Walker supported the Senate bill, The Weekly Standard quickly confirmed Walker did not, in fact, support it.

The reality is that the Schumer-Rubio bill is toxic among conservatives. Leaving the path to citizenship issue aside for a second, it creates a brand new government agency with the power to set wages for the entire agricultural sector of the economy. It also creates multiple slush funds that will funnel taxpayer dollars to leftist activist groups like La Raza and Casa de Maryland. There is nothing conservative about any of that.

Lawrence does admit that “Rubio’s favorability rating among Republicans nationally had dropped 15 points since February,” but, she says, “it is still at 58 percent.” But those numbers will continue to go down as long as Rubio is the face of the wretched Senate bill. And the Washington Post has tracked a similar tanking of Rubio’s popularity, from a 54 percent favorability rating last August to just 43 percent today.

“Opposition to immigration reform, particularly from the tea party wing of the GOP, is intense and vociferous but also misleading,” Lawrence argues, “given that two-thirds of Republicans support a path to citizenship if there are strict conditions that go along with it.”

But those Republicans most engaged on immigration are also those who are most informed on the issue and the most likely to influence their less-informed counterparts. And when any Republican finds out what is really in the bill, support for it craters. A recent Rasmussen poll found that while 50 percent of Americans initially supported Rubio’s bill, only 39 percent of those polled say they still support the plan after they were told it would only cut illegal immigration by half.

Lawrence is almost surely correct that whoever the Republican nominee is in 2016, they will not adopt Mitt Romney’s “self-deportation” immigration position. But that does not mean supporting the Senate immigration bill won’t be a huge loser in Republican primaries.

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