AUSTIN, Texas — In a Spanish language interview with Jorge Ramos on Univision’s Al Punto show, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) discussed immigration policy, affirming his longstanding objection to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) programs.
An article on Breitbart News earlier Saturday said that Rubio called DACA “important” and one that he would not reverse, but a closer look at the official transcript shows some misinterpretations in the translation, and Rubio’s campaign pushed back strongly against any suggestion that the Senator would allow President Barack Obama’s executive amnesty to continue.
Response from Rubio Spokesman
As Rubio spokesman Alex Conant told Breitbart News, “Marco went on Spanish media this week and rejected a comprehensive immigration reform approach, said that the immigration executive orders won’t be permanent policy under his administration, and that he would oppose legalization today because we first need to prevent a future illegal immigration crisis by enforcing our laws.”
“Marco also said it’s important not to end DACA immediately since it would be disruptive given all the people that have it,” continued Conant, “but that at a certain point it would have to end since it cannot be the permanent policy of the land.”
“In case anything was lost in translation, he believes we have to fix our broken immigration system in a series of smaller bills, starting with border security and enforcement, then modernizing our legal immigration system, and then eventually dealing with the illegal immigrants living here,” said Conant.
Background on DACA and DAPA
Before getting too far into the weeds on what exactly was said in the Univision interview, it is helpful to clarify some details about the DACA and DAPA programs.
DACA allows illegal immigrants who came to the United States before their sixteen birthday, commonly referred to as “DREAMers,” to obtain a renewable work permit and be protected from deportation. The original requirements for eligibility were that the DREAMers must be enrolled in school or have received a high school diploma or GED or been honorably discharged from the military, and pass a background check that they have not committed any felonies or serious misdemeanors, among other requirements.
Last November, Obama expanded the DACA program to waive the requirement that the DREAMers be under 31 years of age, to expand the renewal term from two years to three years, and other measures that would increase the number of eligible immigrants.
DAPA was a further expansion of protection from deportation for illegal immigrants, this time for parents who were here illegally but had lived in the U.S. since 2010 and had children who were American citizens or lawful permanent residents.
DAPA and the expansion of DACA have been harshly criticized, for enacting amnesty and for the way Obama enacted them through executive orders, without authorization from Congress. Shortly after Obama signed the executive orders, Texas, joined by twenty-six other states, filed suit against the federal government seeking to stop what they called an unconstitutional overreach by the executive branch, as Breitbart Texas reported. The litigation is still pending, but a federal court has issued an order stopping DAPA from being implemented while the case proceeds.
What Rubio Said in the Interview
Breitbart News has obtained from Univision the transcript of Ramos’ interview with Rubio in both English and Spanish, and it is included in full at the end of this article. The section that is causing the controversy is at the beginning, when Ramos asks Rubio if he would keep DACA or DAPA. Here is the full unredacted transcript from the part of the interview where they discuss immigration:
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?
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.
Ramos: When you announced your candidacy, outside of the building where you announced it, there were a lot of Dreamers, protesting. And then there are some immigrant organizations that have criticized your candidacy. America’s Voice says that you have anti-immigrant positions. I would like to ask you, you were in favor of an immigration reform bill in the Senate, and you voted for it. But today, would you vote in favor of a path to legalization for 11 million undocumented people?
Rubio: Well, that can’t be done today for the following reason. I don’t think we can. I have been very clear. I, through that two-year experience, it’s very clear to me. We’re not going to have the votes or the necessary political support in Congress. Today, in some sectors of the American public, in order to move forward on this issue, unless we first prove to the American people that in the future there’s not going to be another immigration crisis. If we do that, I think that undoubtedly the political support is going to exist to do legalization as you have said. It has to be a process similar to what we advocated in the legislation that I sponsored, and it’s the law that says that, first, the things we’re all familiar with must be present: a background check, pay a fine, begin to pay taxes, get a work permit, and after 10 years, they can apply for their residency. That would be the process, but we can’t get to that point. Politically, the support and the votes in Congress aren’t there until we prove to those members of Congress and the American people that immigration laws are going to be enforced.
The critical section is here, in English:
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 here is the original Spanish:
Pero DACA, yo creo que es importante, no se puede cancelar de un momento al otro porque ya hay personas que están beneficiando. Pero sí va a tener que terminar. No puede ser la política permanente de Estados Unidos.
A source close to Rubio who is a native speaker of Spanish told Breitbart News that the word “important” is being taken out of context, and that Rubio was not saying that DACA was important, but that his approach not to cancel the program immediately was an important concept. In other words, the word “important” belongs to the phrase that follows it, not the word “DACA” immediately preceding. This interpretation makes sense, since in the very next sentence and then repeatedly throughout the interview, Rubio says that the program must end.
In contrast, the translation relied upon by the original Breitbart News article from the media service Grabien flips this around, saying, ““I believe DACA is important. It can’t be terminated from one moment to the next, because there are already people benefiting from it.”
According to our source, even the Univision translation was a little imprecise, and said that a more word-for-word translation of Rubio’s words would be “But DACA, I think it’s important not to cancel it from one moment to the next because you already have people benefiting from it.”
Listening to Rubio’s phrasing on the video of this segment also supports this interpretation. Note that the video includes the imprecise translation in the subtitles:
A later section from the original Breitbart News article appears to have another mistranslation, saying that “Rubio answered that DACA will end only when a legislative substitute with the exact same or similar policy prescriptions—a legislative amnesty for illegal alien minors—is implemented.” That statement is simply not in the Univision transcript.
What Rubio does say is that “DAPA hasn’t yet taken effect” — because of the federal court order blocking it — “[a]nd since that program hasn’t taken effect yet, I would cancel it.” For DACA, Rubio’s comments as detailed above are consistent with his longstanding position that the program should be ended, no one new should be allowed to apply under it, but that for those who were already in the program, it should not be ended immediately because that would be disruptive.
The Broader Issue of Ending DACA
As noted above, Rubio has long opposed the DACA program. In July 2014, Rubio sent a statement to the Obama administration calling on them to “wind down” DACA and not allow any new applicants, as reported by the Huffington Post. “Because the recent wave from Central America spiked after DACA was announced, it is in our interest to wind down this program,” Rubio said in the statement. “If you are not currently in it, you should not be eligible for it.”
Regarding the broader issue of ending DACA, sources close to Rubio told Breitbart News that the issue is that by the time a new President is sworn into office in January 2017, the DREAMers who are working in the United States under that program will have been doing so with legal authorization for six years. They will have paid application fees, passed background checks, and continued to follow the law as they were instructed for all that time.
While DAPA’s implementation has been blocked by court order and therefore no one can justifiably claim reliance on it, immediately cancelling DACA would be extremely disruptive. This problem has been recognized by many others, including conservatives who support border security and strict immigration enforcement. In fact, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) advocated the exact same position as Rubio in support of a bill he filed in 2014 that would have stopped the Obama administration from granting any future relief from deportation under DACA or any other executive action.
At the time Cruz’s bill was filed, about a half a million people were in the DACA program. After former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) attacked Cruz, accusing him of wanting to deport those already in DACA, National Review quoted Cruz spokeswoman Catherine Frazier, “We want to stop any more people from getting deferred action under DACA and we want to stop the president from being able to expand it as we have heard he wants to do…Our bill doesn’t address people who have already received deferred action under DACA.”
Another source familiar with DACA and immigration policy but who did not wish to be named told Breitbart News that those who are complying with DACA should be viewed as a lower risk group, because they have passed the background check and complied with the law’s requirements for years. The higher risk, said our source, would be those who qualify for DACA but had not applied for it. “Why didn’t they apply for the protections? You know there’s a reason for that,” said the source, suggesting this group was more likely to have criminal records or other background issues.
Rubio’s Comments on Deportation
Briefly, Rubio’s comments in the Univision interview regarding the 12 million illegal immigrants who are currently in the U.S. were that those “who are already here” were an “issue [that] has to be dealt with, as well…[a]nd nobody, nobody is advocating a plan to deport 12 million human beings.” This position is the same one held by all the major potential Republican and Democratic presidential candidates, and is the same answer that Rubio has said during multiple press appearances in the last week, and before. It is not a comment Rubio only said “targeted toward Spanish speakers.”
Other Media Responses
CBS News relied on the same imprecise Grabien translation of the Univision interview and, using only a few select quotes, incorrectly claimed that Rubio was advocating a shift from his position on the issue from 2014. The article, titled “To Spanish media, Rubio softens criticism of Obama immigration program,” said, “The English translation of Rubio’s remarks, published by Grabien, shows the Florida senator taking a softer tone when addressing his Spanish-speaking audience about the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy.”
On the flip side, conservative media watchdog Newsbusters reported on how Univision was promoting the interview, saying, “Univision appears to be pulling out all the stops to portray Sen. Marco Rubio as ‘the bad guy’ to its viewers.” Newsbusters noted that both anchor María Elena Salinas and Ramos introduced the interview by saying that Rubio wanted to end DACA, promoting that aspect of the interview in an attempt at “fear-mongering.”
Part of the Ramos interview with Rubio aired on Wednesday and the full interview is scheduled to air on Sunday.
Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter @rumpfshaker.