Latino Dems Slam Sen. Marco Rubio's Immigration Vote

by Suzanne Gamboa /  / Updated 

Latino Democratic leaders piled the criticism on 2016 presidential candidate Sen. Marco Rubio for taking a break from the campaign trail to vote in the Senate on an immigration enforcement bill, his first vote since Sept. 24.

The bill that sought to eliminate any funding to cities with so-called "sanctuary city" policies. Such policies relieve local law officers of enforcing certain immigration laws so they can build trust with immigrant communities and get better cooperation for criminal investigations and witnesses reports.

The bill was inspired by the death of Kate Steinle who was shot by an immigrant who was released from prison and was not held by local officials for federal officials who wanted to deport him. Trump made her death an issue in the presidential campaign.

RELATED: Marco Rubio Takes First Senate Vote In Nearly One Month

Rubio, R-Fla., missed nine votes in the last three-and-a-half weeks. He has come under fire on the campaign trail for missing more votes than most of his fellow Senate colleagues also running for president, according to an NBC analysis. He has missed 44 percent of votes since he announced his candidacy. Only Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-N.C., has missed more.

Prior to his vote Tuesday, Rubio gave a speech on the floor regarding the Veterans Affairs Department that could fuel the attacks against Rubio's attendance.

"All we're saying here is if you work at the (Veterans Affairs Department) and aren't doing your job, they get to fire you," Rubio said. "This should actually be the rule in the entire government - if you aren't not doing your job you should be fired."

In a press conferencecall organized by the Democratic Party, Rep. Xavier Becerra, D-Calif. pounced on that comment.

"You miss a third of all the votes you are supposed to cast in the Senate, and you show up for this political one and people have to question, what drives you and why are you doing this, especially when you flip-flopped from the past on the position you had on immigration?" Becerra said.

Rubio was a member of the "Gang of Eight," eight senators who crafted the bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill that the Senate passed in 2013. But he walked away from the bill amid opposition from conservatives.

"Being AWOL for a third time of your work, Marco Rubio, as you said, should get you fired, but flip-flopping means you are not even doing your job right," he said.

Rubio's spokesperson defended his speech and his missed votes: "One of the reasons Marco is campaigning hard to be the next president is so he can finally bring accountability to the VA," Brooke Sammon said.

Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., accused Rubio of pandering on the issue.

"It's not a question of turning your back. It's a question of not being honest with yourself and not being consistent to the things you talked about in the past," Grijalva said.

The bill also drew support from Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, who also is seeking the Republican presidential nomination. Cruz said now that the bill failed it should attached to a bill that the Senate must pass so it can be approved, the Hill reported.

Becerra said Rubio tries to distance himself from Ted Cruz and portray himself as something different, but "in this case, I think we have to say Sen. Rubio is no different, no better than Sen. Cruz. I would put them in the same box," he said.

Grijalva added: "He's the one who is listening to the political winds in terms of what Trump is saying and he's the one who's made the most dramatic shift ... but is he any different than Ted Cruz at this point? No."

NBC's Leigh Ann Caldwell contributed to this report.

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