Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) is the ultimate political chameleon, a sleazy politician who constantly shifts positions depending on whatever is politically convenient for him at any time. This is especially true on the issue of immigration.
When you think of a career politician, Rubio should be the first thing that comes to mind. He was elected as a city commissioner for West Miami in 1998 and became a member of the Florida House of Representatives in early 2000.
While in the Florida legislature, Rubio gained a reputation for being supportive of immigrants and their causes. In 2003, he co-sponsored legislation that allowed children of undocumented immigrants to pay in-state prices for college and when he became speaker of the Florida House in 2006, he refused to let anti-immigrant measures progress by not allowing them to be heard and brought up for debate.
It was when he ran for the United States Senate that Rubio changed his tune. Facing pressure from anti-immigrant Tea Party activists and a three-way race against former Republican governor Charlie Crist and former Congressman Kendrick Meek (D-FL), Rubio changed his tune and began to espouse nativist rhetoric, even vowing “to never support the legalization of anyone who was here in the country illegally.”
Rubio supported a 2013 immigration reform bill that was heavy on enforcement measures but also would have given a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented people across this country. He would go on to vote against his own immigration bill after cowering to anti-immigration hardliners in the Republican party.
During the 2016 elections, Rubio ran against Donald Trump in the Republican presidential primaries and went as far as saying that “a con artist is about to take over the Republican Party” regarding Trump’s candidacy and that he “has a record of sticking to working people for 35 years.” Trump won the election, and Rubio immediately folded into full-blown sycophantic behavior, regularly refusing to condemn his most egregious behavior. During the Republican National Convention, he again cowered and encouraged Republicans to vote for the same man he had recently called a “con artist.”
Fast forward to the present day and Rubio has become a pathetic figure, willing to say anything to appease the MAGA lunatics who forced him to move out of his long time West Miami home due to incessant protests in his neighborhood over what they perceived as insufficient support for Donald Trump’s unhinged conspiracy theories about election fraud. He has now become a full-blown nativist, echoing Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric in his campaign to serve another term in the United States Senate.
This is why The Florida Immigrant Coalition Votes, an organization that I work for, released Spanish-language radio ads that include a voicemail in which Rubio’s mother urged him to not “mess with immigrants.” The voicemail from Rubio’s mother surfaced in 2013 when he played it for the media, back when Time Magazine deemed him “The Republican Savior,” someone who could make the Republican appealing to a newer generation. It’s been sad to watch Rubio continuously debase himself since then to keep himself relevant in a party increasingly dominated by xenophobic and authoritarian extremists who support a disgraced reality TV star.
Rubio himself comes from a family of immigrants who came to the United States in the 1950s and he has publicly stated his family “immigrated to America with little more than the hope for a better life.” Yet he has failed to support policies to protect immigrants, instead choosing to attack them for cheap political points and to support policies that separate families. His mother’s voicemail had a clear message for her son:
“This is advice from the person who loves you most in the world. Please don’t mess with the immigrants. They are human beings just like us, and they came to the country for the same reasons that we came: to work, to improve their lives. Don’t hurt them. Poor little ones.”
Even though the senator seems to have forgotten his immigrant roots, prioritizing his political aspirations, his mother certainly didn’t. It’s unfortunate that Rubio chose to ignore his mother’s living advice and renege on his own origins.
Thomas Kennedy is an elected Democratic National Committee member representing Florida. He tweets from @tomaskenn.
is a reported opinion columnist and roving correspondent. He's an elected member of the Democratic National Committee from Florida and a Director of Sunshine Agenda Inc. a government transparency nonprofit organization.