In an attack on Sen. Marco Rubio’s stance on immigration, Sen. Ted Cruz makes two overly broad accusations that distort Rubio’s position.
- Cruz claims Rubio “advocates amnesty for criminals who are here illegally.” But Rubio supports deporting felons, and he has supported legislation that would bar legal status for those with three or more misdemeanors and those with a single serious misdemeanor, such as a domestic violence or drunk driving offense.
- Cruz claims Rubio said “that he would not revoke President Obama’s illegal executive amnesty on the first day in office.” Rubio said he wouldn’t immediately revoke Obama’s 2012 order protecting so-called “Dreamers” — young people brought to the U.S. illegally by their parents. But Rubio has said he would revoke Obama’s 2014 executive action that protects as many as 5 million adults from deportation.
Cruz, Jan. 31: Now, I will talk about substance. So, for example, on the question of amnesty, it is a fact that right now, Marco Rubio advocates amnesty for 12 million people here illegally. He advocates legalization and citizenship for everyone here illegally. He even advocates amnesty for criminals who are here illegally.
It is also a fact that Marco has said when he went on Spanish television with Jorge Ramos that he would not revoke President Obama’s illegal executive amnesty on the first day in office. He said you can’t do that overnight. That’s going to take time. If I’m elected president, I will rescind every single one of President Obama’s illegal executive orders on day one.
It’s true that Rubio once cosponsored and supported S. 744, the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act, the so-called Gang of Eight Senate immigration bill that included a “path to citizenship” for those currently in the country illegally. Rubio’s later rejection of the bill has been well-documented. But we were interested in Cruz’s claim that Rubio “advocates legalization and citizenship for everyone here illegally” and “even advocates amnesty for criminals who are here illegally.”
Amnesty for Criminals?
Cruz’s claim that Rubio “advocates legalization and citizenship for everyone here illegally” is not accurate. The Gang of Eight bill would only have provided a path to legalization for those who had been living in the U.S. since Dec. 31, 2011. It also would have required those seeking permanent legal residency to demonstrate an average income of at least 125 percent of the federal poverty level while in provisional status, with some exceptions. And it would have excluded anyone who had committed a felony or three or more misdemeanors. The Congressional Budget Office estimated that as a result of the Gang of Eight bill “about 8 million unauthorized residents would initially gain legal status under the bill, but that change in status would not affect the size of the U.S. population.” That amounts to a majority of the people estimated to be living in the U.S. illegally, but not “everyone,” as Cruz said.
As backup for the claim that Rubio “advocates amnesty for criminals who are here illegally,” the Cruz campaign pointed to a story on the conservative website Breitbart.com that highlighted comments Rubio made in a Jan. 17 interview on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” The host, Chuck Todd, asked Rubio about the estimated 11 million currently living in the country illegally and whether he was “still for finding a way for them to legally stay in the United States.”
Rubio began his response by saying, “If you’re a criminal alien, no, you can’t stay.”
Todd asked him to define criminal alien.
“A felon,” Rubio responded. “I mean, a felon, someone who’s committed a crime, a non-immigration-related — and that’s what I’ve talked about in the past … I don’t think you’re gonna round up and deport 12 million people.”
So, Brian Phillips, a spokesman for the Cruz campaign told us via email, “Rubio would only deport convicted felons. That leaves a whole lot of people who commit crimes still in the country.”
But that’s not the sum of Rubio’s public record on the issue.
In his 2015 book, “American Dreams: Restoring Economic Opportunity for Everyone,” Rubio said more generally that those who have committed “serious crimes” will “have to leave” (see page 50).
Rubio, from American Dreams, 2015: First, those here illegally must come forward and be registered. If they have committed serious crimes or have not been here long enough, they will have to leave. With the new E-Verify system in place, they are going to find it difficult to find a job in any case. Second, those who qualify would be allowed to apply for a temporary nonimmigrant visa. To obtain it they will have to pay an application fee and a fine, undergo a background check and learn English. Once they receive this work permit, they would be allowed to work legally and travel. To keep it, they will have to pay taxes. They would not qualify for government programs like Obamacare, welfare or food stamps. And if they commit a crime while in this status, they would lose their permit. Third and finally, those who qualify for a nonimmigrant visa will have to remain in this status for at least a decade. After that, they would be allowed to apply for permanent residency if they so choose. Many who qualify for this status will choose to remain in it indefinitely. But those who choose to seek permanent residency would have to do it the way anyone else would, not through any special pathway.
The Gang of Eight Senate immigration bill, S. 744 — which Rubio voted for but later backed away from — would have withheld Registered Provisional Immigrant status from those convicted of felonies, three or more misdemeanors, certain foreign offenses or unlawful voting.
Rubio’s campaign noted that Rubio also supported a failed amendment to the Gang of Eight bill sponsored by Sen. John Cornyn that would have gone even further to preclude from residency anyone who had committed misdemeanor offenses including domestic violence, child abuse and neglect, assault resulting in bodily injury, the violation of a protection order, or driving while intoxicated. The amendment also would have excluded from residency anyone convicted of three or more misdemeanors other than minor traffic offenses. (See page 4427 of the Congressional Record.) Cruz also voted in favor of the amendment.
So one could argue that Rubio’s plan would allow those convicted of some misdemeanor crimes to obtain legal residency, but Cruz’s blanket claim that Rubio “advocates amnesty for criminals who are here illegally” omits the criminal exceptions that Rubio has outlined.
On Obama’s Executive Actions
Cruz went on to say that Rubio would not immediately rescind Obama’s “illegal executive amnesty.”
Cruz, Jan. 31: It is also a fact that Marco has said when he went on Spanish television with Jorge Ramos that he would not revoke President Obama’s illegal executive amnesty on the first day in office. He said you can’t do that overnight. That’s going to take time. If I’m elected president, I will rescind every single one of President Obama’s illegal executive orders on day one.
Update, Feb. 4, 2016: Cruz made a similar claim on CNN’s “State of the Union” the same day. “Marco has gone on Univision in Spanish and told Jorge Ramos he will not repeal, he will not rescind Obama’s illegal executive amnesty on day one,” Cruz told host Jake Tapper. “He says you can’t do it overnight, and he won’t do it.”
Again, Cruz has painted with too broad a brush. There are two main executive actions that Obama has taken with regard to immigration enforcement — one related to so-called Dreamers, who were young when they were brought to the U.S. by their parents who themselves entered illegally, and another issued two years later that sought to protect from deportation as many as 5 million adults in the country illegally. Rubio has a different position on each.
It’s true that Rubio said he would not immediately revoke Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, which allows immigrants who came to the U.S. when they were 15 years old or younger and have been illegally living in the country since June 15, 2007, among other stipulations, to remain in the U.S. legally for two years. That’s the position Cruz highlighted when he referred to Rubio’s October 2015 interview with Fusion’s Jorge Ramos.
Ramos, Oct. 29, 2015: Would a President Rubio revoke deferred action and the executive action by President Barack Obama that would benefit more than 4 million people, undocumented immigrants, in this country?
Rubio: Well, we have two executive actions. The first was DACA, which applies to young people that arrived in this country at a very young age before they were adults. And I don’t think we can immediately revoke that. I think it will have to end at some point. And I hope it will end because of some reform to the immigration laws. It cannot be the permanent policy of the United States. But I’m not calling for it to be revoked tomorrow, or this week, or right away.
Cruz and Rubio have a difference of opinion on that. Cruz has said he would deport so-called Dreamers.
But as Rubio went on to say in the same Fusion interview, there was another executive action announced by Obama in 2014 — Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents — that would allow immigrants who have lived in the U.S. illegally for more than five years and are parents of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents to lawfully remain in the U.S. temporarily without the threat of deportation. According to Obama’s action, they would have to register and pass criminal and national security background checks and start paying taxes, but they would be allowed to stay and work in the U.S. without fear of deportation for three years at a time. The policy hasn’t gone into effect, however, as it has been blocked in federal court.
In the Fusion interview, Rubio said he would immediately revoke that Obama executive action.
Rubio, Oct. 29, 2015: There is a new executive action that applies to adults, to a broader population of people. And that, I believe, is the wrong approach. I would revoke it because it’s hurting our efforts to reform our immigration laws. It’s adding credibility to the argument that we cannot do immigration reform because the federal government is not serious about enforcing immigration laws and preventing a future illegal immigration crisis.
Again, Cruz’s overly general comment about Rubio balking at the immediate revocation of Obama’s immigration actions ignores Rubio’s different stances on two separate executive actions.