U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R-Fla.) office sparked a bit of a firestorm on Sunday when a quote attributed to one of his aides claimed that immigration reform is necessary because some American workers “just can’t cut it.”
The aide made the comment to The New Yorker‘s Ryan Lizza in an article published early Monday morning, explaining why Rubio sided with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on the issue of a guest-worker program for the construction industry.
“There are American workers who, for lack of a better term, can’t cut it,” the Rubio aide told Lizza. “There shouldn’t be a presumption that every American worker is a star performer. There are people who just can’t get it, can’t do it, don’t want to do it. And so you can’t obviously discuss that publicly.”
The statement rankled feathers on both sides of the aisle. Conservative Erick Erickson wrote that “we have to take seriously” the notion that Rubio believes some Americans will have to “suffer the fate of natural selection.”
New York Magazine‘s Jonathan Chait worried that the quote could torpedo immigration reform altogether, imagining that Republican support for the bill could erode based on the quote.
Rubio’s camp spent Monday morning trying to calm the storm, releasing a statement from the senator explaining that he believed his staffer was trying to outline one of the reasons “big labour” was opposed to a guest-worker program.
“The quote attributed to a member of my staff was a description of one argument used against big labour’s opposition to a guest worker program. It is not my view in any way. I could not disagree with it more,” Rubio said.
“My belief is that the American worker is the most productive worker in the world. The purpose of a guest worker program is not to replace Americans, but rather to provide workers in industries where there is a shortage of domestic workers.”
The immigration bill being debated in the Senate provides changes to the existing guest-worker program, which has been one of the biggest hurdles in past attempts for reform. The agreement resolved what wages should be paid to guest workers, who are often employed at hotels and restaurants or on construction projects and brought in during labour shortages.
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