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Apr 17 2012

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Rubio’s false promise

He’s on the wrong side of too many issues that matter to Latinos.

By Raul A. Reyes

Raul A. Reyes

Sen. Marco Rubio will release his memoir, An American Son in June. In what his publisher is billing as an inspirational story, the Florida Republican writes about his family’s emigration from Cuba and details the sacrifices that his working-class parents made so he could succeed.

“The American Dream,” Rubio writes, “is still alive for those who pursue it.”

It may seem surprising that Rubio is releasing his memoir at the relatively young age of 41. Or that he took the time to write it, considering his only legislative accomplishment at the national level has been co-sponsoring a resolution that designated September as “National Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Month.”

Still, there’s no doubt that Rubio is a rising star. He’s even been called “the Crown Prince of the Tea Party.” Rubio is a strong candidate to be presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s running mate. Other prominent Republicans, such as fellow Floridian Jeb Bush, have stated that Rubio would make a great vice presidential candidate.

(DonkeyHotey / Flickr)

Rubio is popular with Republicans because the party recognizes that it needs to do something to attract a bigger share of the Hispanic vote. Republicans have increasingly alienated Latino voters with ugly rhetoric and extreme positions on immigration, ceding the nation’s largest and fastest-growing minority group to candidates running on the Democratic ticket. President Barack Obama won two-thirds of the Latino vote in 2008, for example. With Rubio on the ticket, the GOP’s thinking goes, Republicans can win more Hispanic votes.

The problem is that Republicans are assuming Hispanics will be attracted to Rubio simply because he’s Cuban-American. But trust me, Latinos don’t vote based on ethnicity. We vote on policies. And Rubio’s on the wrong side of too many issues that matter to the Hispanic community.

For example, Rubio supports SB 1070, Arizona’s “papers, please” law, and is opposed to any form of “amnesty” for undocumented immigrants. He opposes the DREAM Act, which would allow undocumented youth brought to the United States as children to legalize their status if they get a college degree or serve in the military — despite that fact that 91 percent of Latinos support it. In 2009, during his successful bid to become a U.S. senator, Rubio even opposed Sonia Sotomayor’s historic Supreme Court nomination.

Rubio’s ultra-conservative views are out of step with the Hispanic mainstream. According to a November 2011 poll by Latino Decisions, Hispanics are progressive voters. By clear majorities, we support Obama’s Affordable Care Act, favor greater government spending to revive the economy, and believe that restoring higher taxes on the wealthy is a good way to fix the deficit.

Not only does Rubio oppose all of these ideas, he once announced that social programs like Medicare and Social Security have “weakened us as a people.”

True, Rubio is a charismatic speaker with a bright future. However, he would make a deeply flawed vice presidential candidate. In contrast to his calls for fiscal responsibility, he’s had trouble living within his own means. The Wall Street Journal once referred to his financial troubles as “epic.” He nearly lost one of his homes to foreclosure. As a Florida state representative, he was dogged by allegations that he improperly used his GOP credit card for personal expenses. More recently, Rubio was caught embellishing his family history. He had long claimed that his parents were exiles who fled Castro’s Cuba, but a Washington Post investigation discovered that they actually left in 1956, three years before Fidel came to power.

I don’t see Rubio’s story as inspirational. Despite his background as the son of immigrants, he’s unwilling to allow other immigrants their chance at the American Dream. He has squandered his opportunity to be a voice of reason within the Republican Party. He has placed his personal ambition before the interests of the Hispanic community. And since he hasn’t shown any willingness to support his fellow Latinos, why should I or any other Latino voter support him?

Raul A. Reyes is an attorney and columnist in New York City.

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