Grumbling on the Right has turned into protests over U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio’s immigration-overhaul bill in his home state of Florida.
Long-standing crusaders who want to restrict immigration plus some tea-party activists plan to protest outside Rubio’s appearance on Wednesday at a Republican Lincoln Day dinner in Port St. Lucie. Rubio is the keynote speaker.
And a group of “Miami Patriots” plan to protest every Tuesday afternoon outside Rubio’s Senate office in Doral.
A big question is whether these protests will expand beyond small fringe groups.
A little opposition around the edges could be brushed off. Widespread opposition could effectively put pressure on Congress to kill the bill sponsored by Rubio and seven fellow senators. And it could jeopardize his prospects for the presidency if he runs for the Republican nomination in 2016.
“Florida Senator Marco Rubio, just like former Senator Mel Martinez, opposed amnesty when campaigning but became a pro-amnesty leader upon election,” the protesters said in a joint statement. “His amnesty bill, aka Gang of Eight Senate Comprehensive Immigration Reform bill, is packed with bad provisions including waivers that make non-enforcement a certainty.”
While selling his bill, Rubio stresses provisions to expand enforcement at borders and workplaces and conditions imposed on immigrants seeking legal status, including $2,000 in fines and taxes. He says the current system amounts to an amnesty because the nation cannot realistically deport 11 million people.
His attempt to ward off criticism from fellow conservatives, including a round of appearances on TV and radio talk shows, has partially worked. But protests were inevitable, especially from Floridians who have long opposed legislation that would legalize those who are living here illegally or give them a path to citizenship.