Immigration protesters interrupt Sen. Marco Rubio


A group of young activists interrupted a speech the Florida Republican was giving in South Carolina to accuse him of flip-flopping on support for Dreamers, the name given to undoc

Tampa Bay Times

A year ago this month, Sen. Marco Rubio was heckled as he took the stage at a conservative gathering in Orlando.

On Monday, he faced heat over the same issue — immigration — but from demonstrators on the opposite side of debate.

A group of young activists interrupted a speech the Florida Republican was giving in South Carolina to accuse him of flip-flopping on support for Dreamers, the name given to undocumented immigrant youth.

A video posted on YouTube showed part of the outburst at U.S. Rep. Jeff Duncan’s annual “Faith and Freedom BBQ.” There were boos and one person yelled, “Go home.”

“I’ll start on that topic, how’s that?” Rubio said, going on to praise the United States for having generous immigration laws.

[ Felipe Sousa-Rodriguez, deputy managing director with Florida-based United We Dream, whose group organized the protest in South Carolina, said in a statement to the Miami Herald:

“We weren’t surprised by the crowd’s reaction, as we knew going in that they did not stand with our community. But hearing Sen. Rubio’s comments towards us showed that he has completely turned his back on Dreamers, our families and the Latino community.” ]

Rubio, a potential 2016 presidential candidate still recovering from the beating he took among conservatives for being involved in comprehensive immigration reform, also criticized the youth. “We are a sovereign country that deserves to have immigration laws,” Rubio said, according to CNN, the crowd cheering him on. “You’re doing harm to your own cause because you don’t have a right to illegally immigrate to the United States.”

Rubio also met privately with social conservatives while in South Carolina.

On Tuesday, Rubio again entered the immigration debate by sending a letter to President Barack Obama that contends immigration reform efforts on Capitol Hill would be dead for the foreseeable future if Obama proceeds with expected executive action to legalize more illegal immigrants.

“Your decision in 2012 to institute the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was a major impediment to passage of the kind of immigration reform our nation needs,” Rubio wrote. “No matter what we tried to do to institute meaningful enforcement measures in the Senate bill, opponents pointed to DACA as evidence of your unwillingness to enforce the law.”

Rubio has called for ending deferred action, which has given legal status to hundreds of thousands of young immigrants, including many in Florida. But activists say he’s a hypocrite because Rubio worked on similar legislation in 2012.

Maria Palacios, of United We Dream-Tampa Bay, was one of the demonstrators who showed up at the event in Anderson, S.C. Some of the demonstrators showed up to Rubio’s Miami office last week with a similar message.

“If Sen. Rubio wants us deported, we’re here to ask him to tell us to our faces,” Palacios said in a statement. “We went to Sen. Rubio’s office in Florida, but his staff hid and closed the doors on us, so we’re here to let him know that Dreamers do not forget, and that we will fight to keep our DACA. The Florida immigrant community must see that Sen. Rubio does not stand for us.”

Rubio’s visit to South Carolina was one stop in a busy August. He left Washington during the congressional recess and went to Iowa, where he attended a fundraiser for U.S. Senate candidate Joni Ernst.

He’s also visited California to raise money for his political committee and dipped into Colorado to fundraise for another Senate candidate, Cory Gardner. He popped up in Brimfield, Ill., on Aug. 19 for a fundraising event alongside Rep. Aaron Schock.

Next month, Rubio will head to Buffalo, N.Y., for more fundraising.

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