Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio appears to have hardened his position on how he’d address a program that has allowed hundreds of thousands of young undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. as children to remain in the country and work legally.
In an interview with Fusion’s Jorge Ramos in April, the Florida senator said if elected president he would not immediately do away with the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program put in place by President Obama four years ago. More than 700,000 people have benefitted from DACA, which provides renewable two-year work permits.
Rubio told Ramos he hoped the program would end with the passage of immigration reform in Congress.
“I don’t think we can immediately revoke that,” he said in April. “I think it will have to end at some point. And I hope it will end because of some reforms to the immigration laws. It cannot be the permanent policy of the United States but I’m not calling for it to be revoked tomorrow, or this week or right away.”
Now Rubio appears to be subtly changing his stance. On Wednesday, while campaigning in New Hampshire, the Republican presidential hopeful said the program would have to end with or without congressional approval of immigration reform.
“This program’s now been around for three years and we haven’t signed it by now … we’re not going to extend the program,” he said. “DACA is going to end, and the ideal way for it to end is that it’s replaced by a reform system that creates an alternative. But if it doesn’t, it will end. It cannot be the permanent policy of the United States.”
Rubio’s comments in New Hampshire came after Breitbart News, a conservative news site, resurfaced the Fusion interview on Monday and criticized him for “pledging to carry Obama’s policy.” Donald Trump also criticized Rubio on the issue in a tweet with a link to the Breitbart story. “Marco Rubio would keep Barack Obama’s executive order on amnesty intact. See article. Cannot be President,” Trump tweeted.
Immigrant advocacy groups also seized on Rubio’s comments.
Jassiel Perez, a DACA recipient and immigration activist with the group United We Dream, said Rubio was abandoning the immigrant community.
“Let’s be clear: by taking away my DACA, Sen. Rubio wants to deport me, and hundreds of thousands of immigrant youth,” she said. “This is a personal attack and is further proof that he does not stand with the immigrant community.”