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Republican presidential hopeful Marco Rubio, who in 2013 aggressively pushed for comprehensive immigration reform in the Senate, has since distanced himself from the issue as he eyes his party’s nomination. Below is a timeline of Rubio’s changing views on immigration.

October 24, 2010: “Earned path to citizenship is basically code for amnesty. It’s what they call it. And the reality of it is this. This has to do with the bottom line that America cannot be the only country in the world that does not enforce its immigration laws. It is unfair to the people that have legally entered this country to create an alternative pathway for individuals who entered illegally and knowingly did so. And all I’m saying is that if you do that...you will never have a legal immigration system that works. No one is going to follow the law if there is an easier way to do it.” (US Senate debate in Florida)


April 2012: Rubio begins floating his own version of the Dream Act, which would grant legal status to children of undocumented immigrants. “I think the vast majority of Americans understand that if you were 4 years of when you were brought here, you grew up in this country your whole life, and you’re now a valedictorian of a high school or are a high-achieving academic person, and have much to contribute to our future--I think most Americans, the vast majority of Americans, find that compelling and want to accommodate that.”

December 2012: Rubio is approached and decides to join the so-called Gang of Eight, with four senators from each party working on a comprehensive immigration plan.

Jan 16, 2013: “I wish we didn’t have 8 or 12 million people here that are undocumented, but we do, and we have to deal with it. But we have to deal with it in a way that’s compassionate but also responsible.” (Bill O’Reilly interview)


Jan 28, 2013: The Gang of Eight releases the framework for the immigration proposal

Jan 29, 2013: “These are 11 million human beings, 11 million people who, irrespective of how they did it, came here, and the vast majority of them in pursuit of what every one of us would recognize as the American dream…We have 11 million human beings who will be here for the rest of their lives with or without documents. We have to deal with that.” (Senate floor speech)

April 14, 2013: “This bill does three things that are fundamentally important for our country. It modernizes our legal immigration system, something we need to do no matter what. It puts in place the toughest enforcement measures in the history of the United States, potentially in the world. And it once and for all deals with the issue of those that are here illegally, but does so in a way that is fair and compassionate but does not encourage people to come illegally in the future and is not unfair to people who have done it the right way. So that’s why I am optimistic that we can get the votes to get this passed.” (CBS -- Face The Nation)

April 16, 2013: “If anyone believes that we can round up 11 million people and deport them, then they should advocate that. If they believe that what we should do is make life miserable for them so they’ll deport themselves, then they should advocate that. I personally don’t believe that either one of those strategies will happen or can work.” (The Michael Medved Show)


April 17, 2013: Gang of Eight introduces S. 744, the “Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013.”

April 18, 2013: “We are a compassionate people. We are not going to deport 11 million people, so we have to deal with this. We believe we handled this in a very professional and effective way.” (Senate floor speech)

April 24, 2013: “Let’s say this thing falls apart. Then what we are stuck with is what we have now, and what we have now is terrible. I am not sure who benefits from what we have now, but it certainly isn’t America.” (Interview on Fox with Neil Cavuto)

April 25, 2013: “The immigration reform issue for me is not a politically motivated one. It is motivated by a very simple fact: what we have today is chaos. We have de facto amnesty. We have an immigration system that is not good for this country. It is very bad for this country, and it needs to be fixed.” (Interview on FOX News’ “America’s Newsroom”)

May 22, 2013: “My argument continues to be if we don’t pass anything, we have amnesty. We have 11.5 million people potentially living in the United States illegally, and they’re going to be here whether we pass this bill or not. Quite frankly there aren’t any consequences to that, there won’t be any consequences to that under this president. And every year that goes by, the more entrenched they get into the American economy, but they’re not paying taxes, they’re not being held accountable for the work they’re doing, etc. So we don’t know who they are – these are the sorts of reasons why we have to pass immigration reform. If you leave the status quo in place, that is amnesty.” (Interview with FOX News’ Neil Cavuto)


June 3, 2013: “The problem with immigration though is that it is complex because it is all interwoven. It’s all related to each other. It’s literally impossible to do one part without doing the other...So what I have found is that all of these issues are inter-related. You can’t deal with one without dealing with the other, otherwise it doesn’t work. And that’s why it’s so complex because the issue is complex.” (Marco’s Constituent Mailbox video series)

June 9, 2013: “I am 100 percent committed to the immigration issue, immigration reform.” (Interview on Univision)

June 19, 2013: “I think conservatives have a right to be skeptical about this. The federal government, under both Republicans and Democrats, in the past have failed to enforce our immigration laws. That’s why we have a 11 million people here that are illegally here. I just honestly concluded. Look, it’s obvious I didn’t do this for political gain. I mean this is not something that’s going to gain me any parades. People are frustrated, and I do understand it. What I hope they understand, is that I studied this issue carefully for almost two years, and I concluded that what we have in place right now is a disaster. Also says: “We can’t do anything without the House. Now, I’m not going to tell the House what to do. House members have strong opinions about this and they’re going to go in the direction they feel is right for the country.” (Interview on FOX News’ “Hannity”)


June 20, 2013: “If I wanted to do something political, the easiest thing to do politically is to just not deal with the issue. You know? Give a couple of speeches, and not get involved in trying to solve it. I’m dealing with this because this is hurting our country badly. I have studied this issue for two years, and I know we have to solve it. If we don’t solve this issue, illegal immigrants are still going to be here illegally. People will continue to come in, people will continue to overstay their visas, and our broken legal immigration system will still stay in place. That’s why I’m doing it.” (Interview on “CNN Newsroom”)

June 26, 2013: “Getting to this point has been very difficult. To hear the worry, anxiety and growing anger in the voices of so many people who helped me get elected to the Senate, who I agree with on virtually every other issue, has been a real trial for me....I realize that in the end, many of my fellow conservatives will still not be able to support this reform. But I hope you will understand that I honestly believe it is the right thing for our country.” (Letter to conservatives)

June 27, 2013: Those who once had no hope will give their kids the chance at a life they always wanted for themselves. Here in America, generations of unfulfilled dreams will finally come to pass. And that is why I support this reform--not just because I believe in immigrants but because I believe in America even more. (Senate floor)

June 27, 2013: Legislation passes the Senate

July 31, 2013: “Certainly the bill isn’t perfect but I think it was a good way to start this process. I hope the conservatives in the House will improve upon it and I think they deserve the space and the time to do it in a way they can support and I hope eventually we’ll solve this problem. Look, it’s not the most important issue facing America, ObamaCare is more important for example, but it is an important issue and we can solve it, we should try to do.” He added: “Well, first of all, I’ve always supported the incremental approach, it was my preferred approach, it’s not the direction the Senate wanted to go, but if it was up to only me, that’s the direction we would have gone. Because I think you get a better product as a result of that” (Fox News)

Oct. 25, 2013: “I also don’t think it’s realistic to believe that the House is just going to take up and pass whatever the Democrats in the Senate are demanding.” A piecemeal approach, he said, is “my preferred option.” “I think when you try to do anything big in Washington, it ends up running into headwinds. Now that’s the direction the Senate went…but I continue to believe that a series of sequential, individual bills is the best way, the ideal way, to reform our immigration system.” (CNN)

Oct. 29, 2013: “We’ve been lectured for the better part of a month now how we need to be realistic, that Barack Obama was not going to repeal Obamacare. Likewise, I think supporters of immigration reform need to be realistic. The House is just not going to jump on board for whatever the Senate passes.” (Tampa Bay Times)

June 2, 2014: “The part that’s difficult is, is what do you do with millions of people in this country who are here illegally? What do you do about it? And I think that the couple of things we’re not going to do -- we’re not going to award citizenship to people or give them a benefit they wouldn’t otherwise have. And we’re also not going to round up and deport 12 million people. So the problem with finding a solution between those two different positions is people are not willing to even talk about it until they believe the laws are going to be enforced.” (Simon Conway)

Sept. 7, 2014: “We tried to do [immigration reform] through a one-size-fits-all comprehensive approach; it didn’t work. We don’t have the support for that. The only way we’re going to be able to address it--and I believe we should--is through a sequence of bills that begins by proving to people that illegal immigration is under control, modernizing our legal immigration system and then dealing with those who are here illegally.” (CBS -- Face the Nation)

Aug. 26, 2014: “It was my hope that Senate action on this matter could serve as a catalyst for a humane but responsible reform that could ultimately achieve bicameral, bipartisan support. Instead, it led to the stalemate we now face on this issue. After the experience of the last 18 months, I have become convinced that there is no realistic path forward on comprehensive reform for the foreseeable future. Instead, it is clear to me now that the only approach that has any chance of success is one that addresses our immigration problems in a series of sequential pieces of legislation… It is my sincere belief that if we can bring illegal immigration under control and modernize our legal immigration system, then the American people and a majority of their representatives in Congress would be willing to reasonably and responsibly address the issue of millions of people currently in this nation illegally.” (Letter to President Obama)

Jan. 13, 2015: Do you regret having supported comprehensive immigration reform? “No. I don’t. I don’t, because, first, I think immigration needs to be dealt with. And second of all, because we learned a tremendous amount. Primarily, we learned that you’re in the going to reform immigration law in America with everything all in one big bill. I think that’s true for multiple topics. That’s especially true when it comes to immigration… We tried to do it all in one big bill. I advocated for it. The support isn’t there, and there’s less support for that approach today than there was even two years ago when we did it. So what I want to do is get a result, and I believe, gone through the experience I went through, which I never would have learned about this had I not tried it, I believe the only way we’re going to ultimately deal with immigration in this country is through a sequence of bills that build upon one another. Step one is put in place ways to enforce our immigration laws. Step two is modernize our legal immigration system towards a merit-based system. Step three is to realistically and reasonably deal with those who are here illegal. (CNN)

Feb. 27, 2015: At CPAC, Rubio says he was wrong to pursue a comprehensive immigration plan, and that border security must take place before addressing 11 million illegal immigrants. “It wasn’t very popular,” he said of his earlier stance. “You have 10 or 12 million people in this country, many of whom have lived here for longer than a decade, have not otherwise violated our law other than immigration laws, I get all that,” Rubio said. “But what I’ve learned is you can’t even have a conversation about that until people believe and know, not just believe but it’s proven to them that future illegal immigration will be controlled. That’s the single biggest lesson of the last two years.” He added: “You can’t just tell people you’re going to secure the border, you have to do it, they have to see it, and then they’re going to have a reasonable conversation with you about the other parts [of immigration reform]. But they’re not even going to talk about that until that’s done first. That’s now more true than it’s ever been.”

April 14, 2015: “I don’t think it can pass as a comprehensive piece of legislation. And I have evidence: We tried it…We’ve proven, we’ve learned, that in fact a massive piece of legislation especially on something like immigration just really has no realistic chance of passing.” (CNN)