Trump Goes After Rubio’s “DREAM Lite” Heresy

Every political junkie knows how steadily–and for the most part, successfully–Marco Rubio has worked to atone for his disqualifying heresy in championing comprehensive immigration reform in the Senate in 2013. He’s now ruled out any reform until a whole bunch of “enforcement” measures are enacted and adjudged as effective, and for good measure, ruled out any reform so long as Barack Obama is in the White House.

But as Greg Sargent points out today, there’s another, earlier heresy Rubio hasn’t lived down, and hasn’t fully recanted, and Donald Trump’s campaign is now drawing attention to it.

[I]t looks as if Trump will focus his attack on Rubio partly on the Florida senator’s refusal to say that he would roll back President Obama’s executive action shielding the DREAMers from deportation.

The backstory is that in 2012 Rubio was reportedly hard at work on legislation widely dubbed “DREAM Lite,” a measure that would protect DREAMers from prosecution without putting them on an immediate path to citizenship. It was also widely assumed Rubio was setting up Mitt Romney for an endorsement of “DREAM Lite,” to mitigate the damage to his standing among Latino voters he had incurred with his “self-deportation” and other negative stands on immigration during the primaries.

But before Rubio could unveil “DREAM Lite,” the president basically preempted it by executive order. This was, in fact, the first of several Obama executive orders that conservatives now frequently denounce as unconstitutional acts of a lawless president.

On the merits, however, it’s hard for Rubio to promise to revoke something so close to his own idea, and so, Trump is exploiting the hesitation to sow doubts about whether the Floridian really can be trusted by nativists to deport the undocumented. It could be that Rubio is also trying to preserve some credibility with pro-immigration-reform Latinos in case he does get the presidential nomination. But that, of course, is the kind of RINO general election Etch-a-Sketching “the base” hates about GOP pols. So we’ll have to see what happens when push comes to shove.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.