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J.D. Hayworth Criticizes Marco Rubio For Immigration Efforts

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Former Rep. J.D. Hayworth (R-Ariz.) says Republicans working on immigration reform are taking the wrong approach. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Former Rep. J.D. Hayworth (R-Ariz.) says Republicans working on immigration reform are taking the wrong approach. (AP Photo/Matt York)

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- Former Republican Rep. J.D. Hayworth, who primaried Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in 2010, isn't impressed by Sen. Marco Rubio's (R-Fla.) support for comprehensive immigration reform.

"I don’t believe this administration has any intent to enforce the law and I will say, sadly, that I think there are some who aspire to leadership in our party and leadership in the executive branch who, likewise, have no intention," Hayworth told HuffPost on Thursday at the Conservative Political Action Conference, the nation's largest gathering of conservatives.

Asked if he meant Rubio, Hayworth didn't give a "yes," but came close.

"Well, I would just simply refer you, I know they may be competition, but go back and watch the BuzzFeed answer over beer," he said, referring to Rubio's Feb. 5 interview with the outlet. "Go back and watch what the intent was over beers at BuzzFeed. Enforcement was not his leading component, was it? His words. Go back and check."

Rubio is one of four Republicans working on immigration reform as part of the "gang of eight," which supports stricter border measures, streamlined legal immigration, and the more contentious pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants already in the United States. Under that pathway, no green cards would be doled out until after yet-to-be-defined metrics were met, but undocumented immigrants would be granted provisional status to stay in the United States until then.

According to Hayworth, those border triggers aren't going to happen. In the Rubio remarks he referenced, BuzzFeed's Ben Smith asked Rubio about conservative criticism of the trigger. Rubio said it would be impossible to give legal status "on day one," as fellow "gang of eight" member Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) previously has said, but defended the provisional status element.

"The second thing is -- and it's kind of a debate I had in my own mind before we engaged in this process -- on the one hand, you want people to come forward as quickly as possible, you want to identify the folks that are there now and lock that in," Rubio said. "That's the reason why I felt that maybe the better approach was to create the legalization first and continue on with the insecurity process."

Rubio went on to explain the importance of border enforcement as part of the plan, as he has on other occasions.

Hayworth is a border hawk, and criticized McCain -- another member of the "gang of eight" -- during the 2010 Senate race for his immigration stances. In the end, Hayworth lost, but he said that wasn't necessarily pertinent to the current immigration debate. His view is that it's not as politically certain that immigration reform will be passed, something he said the "open borders amnesty crowd" is implying.

"I just want to give some advice, it will be unsolicited and perhaps unheeded by those who come down for the kind of permanent presidential campaign, those who will be part of the beauty contest later this week -- embrace your buzzwords at your own electoral risk," he said.

"What happens that doesn’t fit with a lot of the pundit-ocracy around this town, but this transcends political ideology," he continued. "The number of people who describe themselves as liberal activists who want to see secure borders, I think you’ll find surprising. Because Americans understand that you have to have the rule of law and you cannot set up the paradox of a special class of persons who at once will be given certain status to move to the front of the line, yet will be exploited."

Rubio, despite making immigration one of his main issues, apparently didn't think it was a good thing to mention at CPAC: He didn't discuss it once in a speech here on Thursday.

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