Both sides of the debate over immigration reform in the United States are annoyed by the changing stance taken by Senator Marco Rubio on the issue, which analysts say could prove to be a major problem for him as he launches a bid to become the first Latino US president.
“Immigration is the issue that took him from being the Tea Party darling to the Tea Party outcast,” notes University of Central Florida political science professor Aubrey Jewett. “It’s also the issue that his opponents could use to paint him as a flip-flopper.” It was the strong backing of Republicans in the Tea Party that helped Rubio into the Senate in 2010, only to make conservatives very unhappy by supporting and helping to craft a bill for comprehensive immigration reform in 2013.
The bill, which would have offered a path to US citizenship to many of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the country, was passed by the Senate but came to a standstill in the House of Representatives. Criticism from conservatives afterwards saw Rubio backing away from his unequivocal support for immigration reform and insisting on tighter border control.
The senator’s changed stance has alienated immigrant rights advocates, who claim that his flip-flopping on the issue has ruined his chances of gaining the Latino vote vital for any Republican hoping to win the presidency next year.