Marco Rubio Says He’d Stop Protecting Dreamers From Deportation On Day One

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Marco Rubio promised on Thursday to end protections for young undocumented immigrants on day one — not just eventually, as he has said before.

The Florida senator made the comments to CNN’s Jake Tapper on Thursday, after repeated attacks from opponent and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz over his past statements on deportation relief for so-called Dreamers.

Cruz contends that Rubio said one thing in Spanish and another in English about the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, which has helped hundreds of thousands of undocumented young people who came to the U.S. as children gain temporary work status.

Cruz promised to kill the program on the first day of his presidency; Rubio had previously said he would end the program — including in an oft-referenced interview on Univision — but had not offered a timetable.

Rubio smirked as Tapper played a clip of Cruz criticizing him, and shook his head repeatedly.

“Right after that interview, Univision reported that I said that DACA has to go away and that it will,” Rubio said. “I will on my first day of office get rid of it because it’s unconstitutional.”

He added that “it cannot be permanent policy, and I’ve said that repeatedly,” and that he has opposed it from the beginning.

That’s true — he has criticized DACA from the beginning, and has said it could not continue. But the question of when the program should end is a crucial one. The program currently grants two-year work permits, so Dreamers could be immediately stripped of their status or unable to renew it if a president revoked the permits on day one.

That’s doubly concerning for undocumented immigrants because Rubio has backed away from the comprehensive immigration reform he pushed in 2013, and now says any measures to address the undocumented population can’t happen until after border security is increased and enforcement legislation is enacted. In other words, DACA would be taken away and Dreamers could be waiting years for any sort of relief.

Promising to end the program immediately, rather than “at some point” as he’s said before, is a shift in framing at the very least.

Here’s how he put it to Univision’s Jorge Ramos in a Spanish-language interview in April of last year, according to a translation and transcript from the network:

Jorge Ramos: As you know, it has always been hard for Republicans to get the Hispanic vote. I wanted to talk with you about very concrete issues that affect Hispanics directly. I would like to start with the issue of deferred action and DACA. If you made it to the White House, would you keep the DACA program; that is, Deferred Action for the Dreamers, and would you keep President Barack Obama’s executive action, which would benefit more than four million undocumented people?

Marco Rubio: Well, DACA is going to have to end at some point. I wouldn’t undo it immediately. The reason is that there are already people who have that permission, who are working, who are studying, and I don’t think it would be fair to cancel it suddenly. But I do think it is going to have to end. And, God willing, it’s going to end because immigration reform is going to pass. DAPA hasn’t yet taken effect, and I think it has impeded progress on immigration, on immigration reform. And since that program hasn’t taken effect yet, I would cancel it. But DACA, I think it is important; it can’t be cancelled suddenly because there are already people who are benefitting from it. But it is going to have to end. It cannot be the permanent policy of the United States. And I don’t think that’s what they’re asking for, either. I think that everyone prefers immigration reform.

Ramos: But then, to clarify, you would end DACA once immigration reform is approved. But what happens, Senator, if there is no immigration reform? Would you cancel DACA anyway?

Rubio: At some point it’s going to have to end. That is, it cannot continue to be the permanent policy of the United States. I do think that if I wind up being president, it will be possible to achieve new immigration reform. It won’t be possible for it to be comprehensive; that is, they are not going to be able to do everything in one massive bill. We already tried that a couple of years ago. We have seen that the political support isn’t there, and I think we’ve spent a lot of time on this process when we could have started moving forward through the three steps that I advocated. Unfortunately, a lot of time has been wasted on that. It has become an even more controversial issue; harder to move forward on that issue. But I still say that it’s important to modernize our system, and that means improving the way we enforce it in the future, to modernize the immigration system so that it’s not so costly and bureaucratic. And we have to deal with 12 million human beings who are already here. And nobody, nobody is advocating a plan to deport 12 million human beings. So that issue has to be dealt with, as well.

He made similar comments to Ramos in an English-language interview on Fusion that month.

“I don’t think we can immediately revoke that,” Rubio said on Fusion. “I think it will have to end at some point and I hope it will end because of some reforms 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.”  

He told MSNBC in April that DACA would have to end, but ideally it would be replaced by some sort of congressional action. He said taking away DACA immediately “would be very disruptive.”

“Ultimately, there will come a point where it will have to end,” Rubio said then. “Maybe not in six months, but at some point it will have to end, and that’s why there should be urgency about moving forward on immigration reform beginning with immigration enforcement.”

GOP Candidates On Immigrants

GOP Candidates On Immigrants

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Donald Trump
“You’re going to have a deportation force, and you’re going to do it humanely. Don’t forget…that you have millions of people that are waiting in line to come into this country and they’re waiting to come in legally. And I always say the wall, we’re going to build the wall. It’s going to be a real deal. It’s going to be a real wall.” – November 2015

(Paul Vernon/Associated Press)

Donald Trump
“You’re going to have a deportation force, and you’re going to do it humanely. Don’t forget…that you have millions of people that are waiting in line to come into this country and they’re waiting to come in legally. And I always say the wall, we’re going to build the wall. It’s going to be a real deal. It’s going to be a real wall.” – November 2015
(Paul Vernon/Associated Press)
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Marco Rubio
“I personally do not believe that it’s good for America to have millions of people permanently living here who can never become Americans, who want to be Americans, who love America, but just can’t become Americans.” – December 2015
(Associated Press)
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Ted Cruz
“Listen, the commonsense principles that most of us understand and most Americans agree with on immigration are not complicated. It’s legal? Good. Illegal? Bad.” – November 2015
(David McNew/Getty Images)
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Jeb Bush
“There should be a path to earned legal status for those that are here — not amnesty — earned legal status, which means you pay a fine and do many things over an extended period of time.” – August 2015
(Luis M. Alvarez/Associated Press)
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Carly Fiorina
If you have come here illegally and stayed here illegally, then you don’t get a pass to citizenship. – June 2015
Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images
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Ben Carson
“The key thing is we have to secure all our borders — north, south, east and west. … And then turn off the spigot that dispenses all the things that they are coming here to get. Then there wont be any reason for them to do it.” – July 2015
(Scott Morgan/Associated Press)
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Rand Paul
“It’s an absurd idea, to round up 11 million. What’s absurd about his idea is not only the rounding up part. [Donald Trump]says, ‘oh, we’re gonna welcome them all back, most of them are coming back.’ Well if you take the time to send them home for breaking the law, why would you then immediately say you could come back. It’s an absurd idea.” – November 2015
(Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
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Chris Christie
At any moment, FedEx can tell you where that package is….Yet we let people come to this country with visas, and the minute they come in, we lose track of them.We need to have a system that tracks you from the moment you come in. – August 2015
(Darren McCollester/Getty Images)
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Mike Huckabee
“A country that does not have secure borders is really not a country anymore. … [The U.S. must] stem the tide of the people who are rushing over because they’ve heard there’s a bowl of food just across the border.” – March 2015
(Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images
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Rick Santorum
Until this summer, I was the only candidate who had a message focused on helping American workers by putting common sense limits on this surge of immigrants.This is not anti-immigrant, this is pro-worker.” – August 2015
(Steve Pope/Getty Images)
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John Kasich
“I don’t favor citizenship because, as I teach my kids, you don’t jump the line to get into a Taylor Swift concert.” – August 2015
(Charles Krupa/Associated Press)
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George Pataki
“I share the frustration, yes I think [Donald Trump]has tapped into a chord of people who do not want to see millions of people come here illegally, but that does not justify demonizing an entire group of people.” – July 2015
(Jim Cole/Associated Press
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Jim Gilmore
“I could not more emphatically disagree with [ending birthright citizenship]. Its very dangerous to begin to tinker with who gets to be a citizen, who doesnt get to be a citizen. And it is a dreadful message to be sent to young people right now who have citizenship and are going to feel like theyre not wanted. This is wrong. Its pandering. Its an awful-type of statement and it should be rejected summarily.” – April 2015
(Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
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