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Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla, appears on Fox News’ "The Five" March 30, 2015. (AP Photo/Richard Drew) Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla, appears on Fox News’ "The Five" March 30, 2015. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla, appears on Fox News’ "The Five" March 30, 2015. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

Lauren Carroll
By Lauren Carroll April 14, 2015

Did Marco Rubio vote to deport Dreamers?

On the day Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., announced his presidential campaign, opponents came out with an ad attacking his record.

People for the American Way, a liberal advocacy group, released a Spanish-language radio ad that calls Rubio "just another Republican with a dangerous plan" and claims he supports tax cuts for the wealthy and cutting Medicare funding. The ad is set to run in Denver and Miami, Rubio’s hometown.

The ad also pits Rubio against "Dreamers" -- young people who arrived in the United States illegally as children who have been granted temporary status for deferred deportation under a 2012 White House program.

"Instead of giving Dreamers an opportunity to go to college and build a future, Marco Rubio voted to deport them," the ad’s narrator said.

Rubio, a son of Cuban immigrants, has long been an advocate for changing immigration law, including a path to citizenship. Did he really vote to deport the approximately 700,000 immigrants covered by this program?

The votes

A spokeswoman for People for the American Way sent us evidence for the ad, which points to three instances where the group believes Rubio voted on legislation that amounts to deporting Dreamers.

We also reached out to Rubio’s staff but did not hear back.

To be clear: Rubio did not vote on any sort of yes-no measure that specifically called for deporting this group of individuals. Rather, these three votes had to do with an appropriations bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security.

In February, the fight between Democrats and Republicans over Homeland Security funding ultimately turned into a proxy war over immigration. Many Republicans, including Rubio, wanted to pass a bill that funded Homeland Security but stripped money from programs that would fund the 2012 program -- called "deferred action for childhood arrivals," or DACA -- as well as President Barack Obama’s 2014 executive action that attempts to extend deferred deportations to a larger group of people.

Rubio voted in favor of this limiting funding three times this year (Feb. 3, Feb. 4 and Feb. 5).

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Nowhere does this version of the legislation say young people protected by Obama’s 2012 action would be deported. Though by stripping funding from the program, it’s possible that they wouldn’t be able to renew their participation in the program, meaning they could face a greater threat of deportation in the future.

Politico described it as such: Gutting the program "effectively could leave more than 600,000 of the so-called Dreamers open to being deported." (Pew says there’s 700,000.)

Senate Republicans also proposed a version of the bill that would have targeted Obama’s 2014 expanded executive action but continued funding for the 2012 deferred action for childhood arrivals program, protecting Dreamers from deportation. But Democrats didn’t bite, hoping instead for a bill that left both programs in tact. So that bill never came up for a vote.

In any case, the votes referenced by People for the American Way were not final; they would have simply moved the bill closer to a vote on final passage. Democrats blocked the bill from moving any further, and eventually Congress passed "clean" Homeland Security funding that did not block Obama’s immigration orders.

While he does not support expanding the program to apply to more recent arrivals, Rubio expressed support for maintaining Dreamers’ status in the days after the vote -- at least while Congress works on a permanent solution.  

"Eventually that program has to end. It cannot be the permanent policy of the United States," he said in a Feb. 18 press gaggle. "What I'm not advocating is that we cancel it right now at this moment, because you already have people that have signed up for it. They're working, they're going to school. It would be deeply disruptive. But at some point, it has to come to an end. It can't be the permanent policy. And my hope is that it would come to an end because it's replaced by a permanent solution like the one I've outlined through the three-step process."

It’s worth noting that back in 2012, Rubio supported a plan quite similar to Obama’s deferred action for childhood arrivals program. A spokesman told the Tampa Bay Times that Rubio’s plan never materialized because they were concerned that it would encourage illegal immigration.

Our ruling

A radio ad from People for the American Way said, "Marco Rubio voted to deport" young people known as Dreamers.

Rubio did not literally vote to deport young immigrants protected by Obama’s "deferred action for childhood arrivals" program. He voted in favor of an appropriations bill that would have stripped funding from the program, which might have resulted in future deportations if it had passed. But that’s only speculation.

Additionally, Rubio has specifically said that he does not support affecting the status of current Dreamers, though he does oppose expanding the program and has said it should not be permanent policy.

The statement contains an element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression, so we rate it Mostly False.

Our Sources

People for the American Way, "People For the American Way Launches Spanish-Language Radio Ad Criticizing Rubio for Dangerous Agenda," April 13, 2015

Congress.Gov, "H.R.240 - Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act, 2015," Became law March 4, 2015

Tampa Bay Times, "Sen. Marco Rubio wants to 'wind down' program for immigrant youth," July 24, 2014

PolitiFact, "Debbie Wasserman Schultz says Marco Rubio now against immigration reform, pathway to citizenship," Jan. 30, 2015

New York Times, "Senate Democrats Again Block Homeland Security Funding Tied to Immigration," Feb. 4, 2015

Politico, "Obama's immigration actions could overwhelm agency, witness tells Senate," Feb. 4, 2015

Politico, "House, Senate on DHS impasse: 'After you'," Feb, 5, 2015

Politico, "Marco Rubio falsely accused," Feb. 18, 2015

NBC News, "Congress Approves Homeland Security Funding Without Immigration Fight," March 3, 2015

Department of Homeland Security, DACA Frequently Asked Questions, Oct. 23, 2014

America’s Voice, "Marco Rubio at Iowa Book Signing: Next President Should Not Support DACA/DAPA," Feb. 13, 2015

Email interview, People for the American Way spokeswoman Laura Epstein, April 13, 2015

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