Rubio's Mom Changed His Mind on Immigration

Friday, 08 Feb 2013 11:31 AM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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Marco Rubio's softening stance toward immigration reform boils down to his mom, a new profile of the fast-rising Florida senator reveals.

"Don't mess with the immigrants, my son," Oriales Garcia Rubio told her youngest son during a Dec. 21 phone call, Time magazine reports. Illegal immigrants, she said, are "human beings just like us, and they came for the same reasons we came. To work. To improve their lives."

Rubio took his mother's words to heart, and says they are shaping his work on immigration.

"I have to balance that humanity with reality," he said. "We have immigration laws. They have to be followed. But yeah, she reminded me that there¹s a human element to this as well. As a policymaker, you have to strike a balance."

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Mrs. Rubio came to the United States with her husband, and despite a hard life, they scraped together enough to send all four of their children to college. To this day, the senator takes his family and ethnic obligations seriously.

Rubio himself came of age in west Miami, married the daughter of immigrants, and has emerged as the most influential voice on immigration. He is considered his party's chief player in wooing Hispanic voters ­while remaining conservative enough to remain a tea party favorite.

The senator, having only been in Washington for two years, has already been chosen to give the party's response to President Barack Obama's State of the Union Address on Feb. 12 — ­ a speech he'll give in both English and Spanish.

Rubio has also been mentioned as a potential presidential candidate in 2016, but he hasn't yet announced his intentions on the nation's top office. It's a decision that may hinge on whether his friend and fellow Floridian, Jeb Bush, decides to seek the nomination.

Rubio now endorses a path to citizenship — something he once derided as "code for amnesty" — and that could alienate supporters who favor a tougher stance on illegal immigration.

He's pledged to walk away from any new bills that don't reflect conservative values, and emphasizes that the undocumented have no right to stay in the United States.

He also has vowed to oppose bills that reward immigrants for breaking the law, and says people have a right to be upset that illegals are able to get taxpayer-funded benefits.

Rubio's own grandfather, at one point, was an illegal immigrant who fled Fidel Castro-led Cuba in 1962. He was detained at Miami airport and ordered to be deported. Eventually, he qualified for residency under the Cuban Adjustment Act of 1966. The situation has added to the moral issues about immigration that Rubio struggles with.

But despite his family history, Rubio takes a tough stance on illegal immigrants, and also downplays his potential role in bringing the Hispanic vote to the GOP.

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"If anyone is under the illusion that suddenly our percentage of Hispanic voters will double, let me dissuade them of that right now," he said. Many Hispanics are forming a political identity in an era of big government, and "they've bought into the lie the left is putting out there that because we want to enforce immigration laws, we're not welcoming," he said. "It's not true."


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