Rubio’s Florida offices draw tea party protests over immigration bill

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Tea party members demonstrated outside Sen. Marco Rubio’s office in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., on Tuesday. (Courtesy of Jim McGovern)

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) is pushing immigration reform, and some in the tea party aren't happy about it.

Several dozen tea party members demonstrated outside some of Rubio’s Florida offices on Tuesday to protest the comprehensive immigration bill that Rubio and seven Senate colleagues announced this week, which includes a path to citizenship for up to 11 million immigrants in the country illegally.

At one event in Palm Beach Gardens protesters held signs reading, “Stop the Senate!!” and “No Amnesty for Undocumented and Illegal.” Rubio, elected with strong tea party support, has been considered an instrumental lawmaker in the development of the 844-page immigration proposal.

“We’re not condemning Senator Rubio, but we’re concerned about the direction his immigration bill is going, and especially about the fact that there was no public input,” said Jim McGovern, 65, a member of The Martin 9/12 Committee, a tea party group. “There was no debate. This was all done behind closed doors. This violated his campaign promise saying he would support no bill that took more than 25 pages to describe.”

Rubio’s staff distributed a letter to the protesters from the senator, in which Rubio said he wants to “correct some misinformation.”

“There is absolutely no truth to the idea that I will support any immigration legislation that is rushed through Congress in typical Washington fashion,” Rubio wrote in the letter. He noted that he has asked for committee hearings and that two were scheduled by the Senate Judiciary Committee, for Friday and Monday.

Rubio also said that the “broken” immigration system is the kind of challenge that the tea party wants fixed and that it “inspired me to run in order to change the way Washington works.”

He emphasized that he will only support legislation that strengthens border security and does not allow illegal immigration in the future. Rubio aides said the senator has also received positive feedback on his efforts from some tea party members.

“We are still supportive of Senator Rubio,” said McGovern, a former law enforcement official in New York and New Jersey. “He has not lost us as supporters. We just want to make sure he’s listening to us.”

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Aaron Blake | April 17, 2013