Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) is widely considered a serious contender for the GOP nomination in 2016. A son of Cuban immigrants, he is a strong conservative voice from a swing state. In the past few months, he has chosen immigration reform as his debut on the national stage. He is a leader of the “Gang of 8” negotiations in the Senate, seeking to craft a compromise reform plan. The effort looks set to blow-up his presidential aspirations.
According to The Hill, activists in Iowa and South Carolina are warning Rubio not to endorse an immigration deal that doesn’t first address border security. The two states are important early votes in the GOP Presidential nomination contest.
“The conservatives that I talk to want to see border security first and not have a comprehensive immigration reform bill,” said SC tea party activist John Steinberger.
“Gang of 8” leader Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) recently said, however, that designing a path for the current 11 million illegals to become citizens would take priority over border security. Schumer made it clear that he wanted to handle border security only after resolving the legal status of currently illegal immigrants.
That position is kryptonite for many conservatives.
No one questions the need to overhaul our broken immigration system. It is a Kafka-esque world that subjects applicants to seemingly arbitrary and capricious rules. The wait time for some applicants is measured in decades, while others can get a green card in months. Highly skilled applicants from around the world exhaust the supply of work visas within days of being offered.
The question on immigration is less about what to do with the 11 million currently in the country illegally and more how to prevent another 11 million from entering the country. The fear is that, unless the border is properly secured, the prospect of a known path to citizenship would entice millions more immigrants to flood into the country.
The fear is not unfounded. Katie Pavlich recently reported that illegal border crossings have doubled, and possibly even tripled, since the “Gang of 8” talks on immigration began. That is just on the prospect of reform legislation being enacted. If a new amnesty law is enacted, and the border isn’t secure, crossings will likely skyrocket.
Rubio is now stuck in a very dangerous Washington game. Engaging in high-profile negotiations on immigration, he runs the risk of prioritizing the process of the talks, rather than the specific outcome. He may temporarily put a higher value on striking a “deal,” than the consequences of that deal.
Following Chuck Schumer is not a winning path to the GOP nomination.