Real, comprehensive immigration reform is coming, at least according to the so-called “Gang of Eight” senators, a bipartisan group that’s pushing for legislation that would provide a pathway for citizenship for the 11 million illegal immigrants in the country.
It’s an about-face for several GOP lawmakers and pundits who have previously declared they would never support an approach that legalized the status of those who were already living in the U.S. illegally.
But for GOP lawmakers the about-face is likely about political survival. After all, President Obama simply thrashed Mitt Romney among Latino voters, bagging more than 7 in 10 Hispanic votes.
Still, regardless of the motive, the change in tone is stunning. Here’s a look at what Republicans once said…and what they’re saying now:
Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida:
Then: Four years ago on the campaign trail, the Republican lawmaker, who’s in the ‘Gang of Eight,’ insisted that he would never endorse legislation that legalized undocumented immigrants living in the U.S. He argued that doing so “demoralizes the people that are going through the legal process” and “demoralizes the people enforcing the law.” He insisted, “I am not, and I will never support…any effort to grant blanket legalization amnesty to folks who have entered or stayed in this country illegally.”
Now: Rubio says he favors a path to legalized citizenship—although it must be tied to increasing border security. He said at a press conference earlier this week that “It’s not going to be an easy process, but it’s certainly going to be a fair one and a humane one and one that speaks to our national’s legacy.”
House Speaker John Boehner:
Then: The Ohio Republican has been one of the fiercest critics of comprehensive immigration reform, opposing a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. In 2010, he said if people “want to become citizens they need to do it the right way. Go home, sign up, get in line like everybody else…our schools, our hospitals are being run by illegal immigrants.”
Now: Boehner recently told ABC News that immigration reform must be dealt with. “While I believe it’s important for us to secure our borders and to enforce our laws, I think a comprehensive approach is long overdue.” After the recent bipartisan proposal was put forward, Boehner tepidly said he was “looking forward to learning” more about it.
Sen. Lindsey Graham:
Then: The South Carolina Republican, who’s also in the “Gang of Eight,” argued three years ago that the security of U.S. borders must happen before any comprehensive reform is even considered. He came under fire from critics after arguing on CBS that illegal immigrants “can’t stay unless they learn our language” He also said they “can’t cut in front of the line regarding people who are doing it right and it take over a decade to get their green card.”
Now: In a statement this week, Graham called the new plan a “real breakthrough” and says he’s optimistic legislation will pass. “The time is right and the way forward, while being difficult, is being better defined by the day, and with a reasonable amount of political give and take, we will be successful.”
Rep. Steve King:
Then: The Iowa Republican has been one of immigration reform’s fiercest critics. Last year he compared illegal immigrants to dogs and after the 2012 election vowed to fight what he called “open borders Republicans.”
Now: While King isn’t whole-heartedly endorsing the plan, he isn’t completely dismissing it either. He released a statement saying “I agree with most of the language in very broad guidelines.”
Then: Hannity has long been a fierce opponent of immigration reforms that would give a pathway to citizenship for those living in the country illegally. After the House passed the DREAM Act in 2010, he argued it was “basically amnesty”
Now: After Obama’s re-election, Hannity declared he had “evolved” on the issue of immigration and supports a “pathway to citizenship.”
Then: The conservative shock jock initially dismissed the bipartisan Senate plan as “amnesty.” Over the years, he’s hurled a slew of insults targeting immigrants, including likening them to aliens and calling them an “invasive species.”
Now: After interviewing Rubio, Limbaugh seemed to ease up a bit. He went as far as telling Rubio what he’s doing is “admirable and noteworthy,” adding “You’re meeting everybody honestly, forthrightly. You’re meeting everyone halfway”