Marco Rubio: Immigrant, Not Exile

Why should we care about Marco Rubio embellishing the tale of his parent's immigration? Because it really does matter. It carries a great deal of significance not only in the Cuban communities in Florida, but across the nation. Rubio has

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Why should we care about Marco Rubio embellishing the tale of his parent's immigration? Because it really does matter. It carries a great deal of significance not only in the Cuban communities in Florida, but across the nation.

Rubio has presented himself as an exile for very specific reasons. He wants the narrative that he fled political oppression to come to this country and make something of himself without bootstraps. He has painted his family as political refugees, when in fact, they're economic refugees just like 99.9 percent of the other immigrants in this country.

A simple embellishment for political gain. After all, how could Rubio be anti-immigrant if he descends from an immigrant family? How could Rubio possibly identify with Latino immigrants as a conservative without changing his own history? Just a little date change and he becomes part of something he and his family never were.

Rubio's response when the story hit the airwaves was to push back with this:

I now know that they entered the U.S. legally on an immigration visa in May of 1956. Not, as some have said before, as part of some special privilege reserved only for Cubans. They came because they wanted to achieve things they could not achieve in their native land.

That paragraph summarizes the essence of why many have come to this country, including Mexican immigrants who have literally risked their lives to enter this country. There is only one difference between the children of Rubio's parents and the children of Latino immigrants all around this country, and it's a significant one. Those immigrants are being threatened, demonized, tossed into privatized prison systems and deported because our immigration policy is practically non-existent. No family from Mexico could present themselves at an immigration office, apply for a visa and declare their intent to stay permanently simply because they wanted opportunity. Political exiles might have a chance, but not those who were simply choosing to immigrate.

By claiming this...

I am the son of immigrants and exiles, raised by people who know all too well that you can lose your country. By people who know firsthand that America is a very special place.

...Rubio flatly lied. His parents came to this country in 1956 looking for economic opportunity. They declared at that time they intended to stay permanently. The fact that Castro came to power in 1959 makes a nice excuse to claim his parents were exiles, but it's simply not true. They came here looking for opportunity and assumed they'd be able to return to Cuba for visits whenever they could. Castro complicated the latter, but didn't change the former.

Marco Rubio is just like every immigrant family -- Latino, Irish, Italian, Pakistani or otherwise -- who comes to this country seeking opportunity and a better life. The only difference is that Marco Rubio has allied with political forces who don't want the same for anyone else. He altered his family history to fit a politically expedient narrative and has ridden it farther than he should have.

Rubio isn't the first to do this and he won't be the last. Still he should not be regarded as someone who is fit for national office because of his "exile" background. In fact, he's unfit for national office because of it, because he would deny the same opportunity and legal pathway for every other family who looks just like his did in 1956 living in a country where opportunity lay in a country called the United States and doors were open to walk through.

Beyond the obvious issues with his "story", it proves something else about Marco Rubio. He lies to get what he wants, and does it without blinking. It's a habit with him. He has trouble separating campaign funds from his own checkbook, double-billed Florida taxpayers for pricey plane tickets, and still faces questions about his credit card and foreclosure issues.

You might think Rubio was the type who would sell his own mother down the river for political gain. If you did, you'd be right, since he voted to kill Medicare and Medicaid even as he extolled their virtues for keeping his parents out of poverty.

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