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St. Pete Times’ Ginned Up Marco Rubio Illegal Immigration Controversy

by Javier Manjarres

Alex Leary’s latest piece in  the St. Petersburg Times’ on Senator Marco Rubio (“Tea Party wants to U.S Senator Marco Rubio to step into contentious immigration debate”) can best be described as yet another establishment media attempt to cause friction and/or division between the Tea Party and its preferred candidates before a real controversy has actually occurred.  The piece calls into question Rubio’s immigration record and how certain “conservative activists” believe that Rubio is abandoning the pro-enforcement/anti-amnesty positions he articulated while campaigning to become a U.S. Senator.

One of the probable causes of this ginned-up anger from these activists is the recent failed attempt by the Florida Legislature to pass a private-sector E-Verify bill.  While most conservatives including Senator Rubio support a comprehensive E-Verify program, the failure to enact the law is the legislature’s itself.   Leary is trying to imply that because Rubio didn’t venture down to Tallahassee to change the outcome of a bill as Senator Bill Nelson did during this past legislative session,  he is lacking in conviction on the matter and the Tea Party has grounds to be upset with Rubio because of his lack of involvement in the debate on immigration in the State Legislature.

Rubio has said over the years that illegal immigration is a Federal issue, and technically it is, but since the Federal government has failed to enforce federally mandated immigration laws, several states, including Arizona and Georgia  have opted to pass their own immigration enforcement laws.  It was appropriate for Senator Rubio not to wade into the state’s immigration debate simply because he is a U.S. Senator with substantial responsibilities of national importance and  not a State Senator- a matter that is now being addressed on the state level because of federal inaction.

What is truly peculiar about Leary’s article are the specific activists he selected and quoted from potentially hundreds of Tea Party Leaders throughout the state. Danita Kilcullen of Fort Lauderdale is a devout Tea Party activist who started the longest running Tea Party in the country.  Kilcullen’s initial claim to fame was the time that she heckled then unannounced Senate candidate Marco Rubio as he addressed a Republican group in Fort Lauderdale back in February of 2009. The heckling was in reaction to the fact that Senator Rubio, while in the Florida House of Representatives, did not help push through (6) illegal immigration bills that would have addressed the illegal immigration problem in the state of Florida.  Like many Tea Party groups, the Fort Lauderdale Tea Party finds itself at a cross-roads of sorts, and there are those activists within this group that are questioning Kilcullen’s bizarre behavior and are looking for new leadership for the group.

The Times also cites George Fuller of Sarasota, Florida. Mr. Fuller has long been an anti-illegal immigration advocate, but has not been able to gather much support or respect due to the fact that Fuller has occasionally made very insensitive ethnic and racially-charged comments about Hispanics and the Hispanic community. While his stance on illegal immigration is the correct one, Fuller’s derogatory references to Hispanics in general and racial slurs directed towards myself and Senator Rubio marginalizes himself to the extreme “outer-fringe” -someone hardly representative of the Tea Party.   Fuller’s referencing Hispanics with ‘banana republics’ and ‘swimming back or going back where you came from‘ calls into question the level of hatred he has towards all Hispanics – this he did on, who booted Mr. Fuller for making these very same racially insensitive remarks. Fuller also boasts of using the term ‘ethnicians‘ he uses to describe Conservative Hispanic Republicans:

“I call “conservative” Hispanic republicans “ethnicans”…….they are conservative until it involves Hispanics and then they become ethnicans”– George Fuller

Rubio must eventually meet the immigration debate head on. This was a campaign promise of Rubio’s, as he said that the issue is truly a Federal issue.  President Obama and Senator Harry Reid have been making the case for a pathway to citizenship of ‘all’ illegal immigrants- both the ones already residing here and the ones that will eventually make the trek over the border.  One of the legislative vehicles the Obama Administration has already tried to cram down the throats of Americans was the DREAM ACT. Senator Rubio has stated that he opposes the measure, and will vote against it if it ever were to come up for a vote in the Senate.

The Times piece also quoted Alfonso Aguilar, Director of the Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles, who said that Rubio and other Senate Republicans are letting themselves be held hostage by “hard-line” anti-immigration forces.  “It requires courage,” said Aguilar, whose group seeks a middle ground.  Rubio “would be the ideal person to say ‘I am a strong conservative and I want to work on immigration.'” But right now he’s not leading on the issue and he’s not clear. That’s a problem.”

But true “courage” is not how Mr. Aguliar defines the term.  It can be said that it was Senator Rubio who actually showed courage at a 2010 Senatorial debate hosted by the Spanish-language media outlet Univision when he told viewers that he would not support Amnesty, or the amnesty-driven DREAM ACT.   Rubio, to his credit, has consistently opposed amnesty and the DREAM ACT has have garnered him a lot of criticism from the Hispanic lobby that supports amnesty.   In all fairness, it’s really a stretch for conservatives to legitimately criticize Rubio either for what he’s said or done on the immigration issue in his first five months on the job.

In Rubio’s first five months, it’s fair to say he has not been an immigration crusader who has aggressively tried to bring this issue out to the forefront of the national policy debate.  His overriding concerns have been the debt and fiscal reform, and that’s what he has devoted himself to.  While conservatives need to hold Rubio to his word to support immigration policies that reform the immigration process, secure our borders, and enforce our existing immigration laws, it’s important to be realistic about matters- some activists will never be satisfied with anything less than a 100 percent deportation.  What could also be fueling this anxiety amongst activists is that Senator Rubio hasn’t yet assumed a leading role in the illegal immigration debate, but that will likely change when the issue comes to the forefront as it did towards the end of the Bush administration.

Rubio deserves to be judged by his record and his statements that he’s made thus far- on the issues that he’s addressed in his first 5 months- debt, taxes, foreign affairs, and repealing ObamaCare, for example – Rubio has been solid.

“The core to Rubio’s success with the Tea Party is simple – he supports their key principles of less taxes and smaller government. It’s nearly impossible to find one politician that every person will be able to agree with 100 percent of the time, but Rubio seems to always stand by the core principles that are at the heart of the TEA movement and most conservative voters.-Abigail F. MacIver-Florida Director Americans for Prosperity

“Senator Rubio is 100% correct that Americans are focused on jobs and the economy right now and that’s where we are looking to our leaders for solutions”.- Apryl Marie Fogel-Southern Regional Director Faith & Freedom Coalition, Fmr. State Director – Americans for Prosperity

Senator Rubio has stood with the Tea Party Movement from it’s beginnings and we continue to Stand With Senator Rubio today. The choices to use the selected individuals in the St. Petersburg Times article  is rather ironic, since the Bay Area has so many terrific leaders like Barb Hasselden, Sharon Calvert, Karen Jaroch and Joe Sekula, yet the choice was made to find a voice that did not agree with the Movement or Senator Rubio.  We have stood with Senator Rubio against the DREAM ACT and will continue to do so!- Tom Gaitens, State Director- FreedomWorks


Leary’s disingenuous piece exploits the de-centralized nature of the Tea Party and hand-selects only those individuals who are willing to claim they are extremely disappointed/dissatisfied with the same candidates they elected merely seven months ago- a clear attempt to create the perception that the Tea Party’s dissatisfaction with “Tea Party” candidates is far more widespread than it actually is.  Don’t believe it.

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About author

Javier Manjarres
Javier Manjarres

As the managing editor of The Shark Tank, Javier was awarded the 2011 CPAC Blogger of the Year. Countless videos and articles from the Shark Tank have been featured on Fox News, The Hill, Wall Street Journal, and other national news publications. Javier has also appeared on Univision’s “Al Punto” and numerous radio shows, including being the weekly 92.5 Fox News' DayBreak with Drew Steele political contributor, as well as one of NewsmaxTV's conservative commentators. Javier has also authored "BROWN PEOPLE," which is a book about Hispanic Politics. Learn more at

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St. Pete Times’ Ginned Up Marco Rubio Illegal Immigration Controversy

time to read: 6 min