marco rubio
Republican U.S. presidential candidate Senator Marco Rubio holds a microphone between remarks during a campaign rally in Sarasota, Florida, March 8, 2016. Rubio is struggling to stay in a race increasingly dominated by candidates Ted Cruz and Donald Trump. REUTERS/Steve Nesiu

Marco Rubio has pledged to reverse Barack Obama’s executive action known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) that give work permits and deportation reprieve to hundreds of thousands of immigrants in the country without legal permission` who were brought to the U.S. by their parents when they were minors. At the same time, Rubio says he would allow these immigrants -- known as Dreamers -- to remain “DACAmented” (as opposed to undocumented) until their permissions expired. Depending on the timing of their applications and renewals, that could last about two years into a hypothetical Rubio presidency, according to our reading of USCIS policies relating to DACA.

Rubio’s balancing act -- supporting Dreamers on one hand and opposing DACA on the other -- has cost him support in his 2016 race as voters appear to be retreating from traditional centrist candidates. Immigration hardliners in the GOP base may think he’s too weak on enforcement, opting instead for Ted Cruz and Donald Trump. Pro-immigrant advocates and Latino organizations think he’s too harsh, costing him crucial support from conservative and non-partisan institutions like the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and Eva Longoria’s Latino Victory Project.

The balancing act was on display Wednesday night during Rubio’s Town Hall with Chuck Todd on MSNBC. After admitting that his immigration plan would have shut out his own Cuban immigrant parents, he explained his position on DACA.

“It means they can’t renew their permit,” Rubio said, explaining that he didn’t oppose legislation to allow accommodation for Dreamers, but believes that Obama’s executive orders are unconstitutional. “I would love to cut taxes,” Rubio added as an analogy, “but if the president ordered the IRS to stop collecting a certain percentage of taxes I would be against it.”

Todd asked Rubio if he would commit to passing Dreamer legislation in the first 100 days if he were elected president.

“I don’t think you pass anything until you show that immigration is under control,” Rubio said.

“How do you ever prove it then? [....] They’re moving goalposts here,” Todd said.

“No, I think you can see, when you can see when those 700 miles of fencing has been completed.”

You can watch the full exchange in the video below

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