The request from the liberal Campaign to Reform Immigration for America was simple — but strange.
“Ask Marco Rubio to support a pathway to citizenship,” a caller from the group said.
“Marco Rubio already supports a pathway to citizenship,” I said when I answered my home phone Wednesday. “I don’t understand.”
“He doesn’t support a pathway to citizenship,” the caller shot back.
Me: “Umm, yes he does.”
Caller: “No. He only supports a system of temporary work permits…”
Me: “I really think you have your facts wrong. Where are you getting them?”
The caller hung up.
Count this little back and forth as one of the myriad examples of why immigration reform might not pass Congress despite a strong bipartisan push.
The interest groups on the right and the left might spread just enough propaganda, just enough falsehoods, just enough passion to make immigration reform just another partisan issue.
If immigration reform dies, then activist groups on all sides of the political spectrum live to fight again. In Washington, there can be a perverse disincentive for a real resolution.
And for some in the Beltway, there’s a disincentive to understand what Rubio’s about. Some unwittingly don’t understand Rubio, or they intentionally don’t understand him.
In the case of the DC-based Campaign to Reform Immigration for America, spokesman Jeff Parcher said the caller who phoned my house went “off script.” She misspoke. The campaign wants more action from Rubio, a member of the bipartisan Senate group nicknamed the Gang of Eight, Parcher said, adding that the callers would be “retrained.”
Still, the fact that an activist with the campaign got it so wrong speaks volumes about how a politician can be transmogrified by people with an agenda.
It’s also noteworthy that the caller wanted to speak to the Democratic female in my household, my wife (not me, a male independent). This is politics.
Liberals and left-leaning immigration groups have increasingly grown concerned with Rubio over the past few weeks. The Republican has enjoyed favorable coverage on TV and magazines like Time. And he looks like he’s getting his way.
Activists buzzed with alarm on Easter Sunday when Rubio issued a press statement noting there’s “no agreement on immigration legislation yet.’’
It was perhaps the most common-sense statement of the day. But it became the grist of news stories, blogs and misrepresentations.
One activist wrote on the America’s Voices immigration-reform website and in emails that Rubio was essentially discounting news of a deal between labor unions and big business over a guest-worker permit program.
Rubio wasn’t reacting to that at all.
“I’m encouraged by reports of an agreement between business groups and unions on the issue of guest workers,’’ Rubio said at the time in a comment that seemed to go unnoticed.
“However,” Rubio continued, “reports that the bipartisan group of eight senators have agreed on a legislative proposal are premature.”
Rubio also called for a deliberate and open hearing process in the Senate.
That understandably riled advocates. When a politician calls for a deliberate and open debate in a do-nothing Senate after months of secret meetings, it’s going to raise hackles.