Republican presidential contender Marco Rubio claims his position on immigration is roughly the same as that of fellow Senator and presidential candidate Ted Cruz.
However, a careful examination of the events leading up to the Senate vote on the so-called “Gang of Eight” amnesty bill shows two senators who could not be more different.
Then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid allowed just a handful of amendments to reach the Senate floor. One, from Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley, would have prohibited the legalization of illegal immigrants in the United States until after the administration could prove it had maintained “effective control” of the borders for six months.
Rubio voted against the Grassley amendment. Sen. Ted Cruz voted for it.
Another Republican amendment, from Sen. John Thune, would have required the completion of 350 miles of fencing along the U.S. border that Congress had ordered in 1996 but had never been completed. Thune specified that the fencing had to be in place before legalization could commence. Thune also would have required the completion of 700 miles of such fencing before illegal immigrants’ legal status could be made permanent.
Rubio voted against the Thune amendment. Cruz voted for it.
The other substantive GOP amendment allowed by Reid was from Sen. David Vitter. It would have delayed the granting of legal status until a biometric visa identity system first ordered by Congress in 1996 had been “fully implemented at every land, sea, and airport of entry” into the United States.
Rubio voted against the Vitter amendment. Cruz voted for it.
These are recorded votes on amendments. Many more amendments never reached this stage because Rubio, along with his fellow gang members, decided behind closed doors which amendments would be allowed and which would never see the light of day.
“The eight met in private before each committee hearing, hashing out which amendments they would support and which oppose as a united coalition,” the Washington Post reported in May 2013. “Senate aides said amendments were rejected if either side felt they would shatter the deal.”
For example, the Post reported, “GOP members of the group opposed several tough border-control amendments from Sen. Ted Cruz.”
The public discovered the secret Rubio-Democratic agreement when the Judiciary Committee was considering an amendment that involved giving government payments to former illegal immigrants through the Earned Income Tax Credit program. Sen. Chuck Schumer, the leading Democrat on the Gang of Eight, was caught on an open microphone turning to an aide and saying, “Do our Republicans have a pass on this one, if they want?” It turned out they did, meaning Schumer would allow gang Republicans to vote against the measure.
When push came to shove:
The Gang of Eight bill came up for a final Senate vote on June 27, 2013. Rubio, as a key author of the legislation, voted for its passage. Cruz voted against it.
Today, Marco Rubio is singing a different song on amnesty:
“The provisions in the 2013 bill were the product of compromise and not what we would have done if we’d written the bill on our own,” Rubio aide Alex Conant said. If a President Rubio undertook immigration reform, Conant added, the results “would not be the same as what the Senate passed in 2013.”