February 12, 2013
Ed Pilkington in New York
guardian.co.uk

Young Hispanic leaders are planning to reactivate the nationwide campaign they launched in 2012 against the Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, focusing their energies this time against one of the most prominent Latino conservatives, Marco Rubio.

The senator for Florida will deliver the Republican party's official rebuttal to President Obama's state of the nation address on Tuesday, taking to the air on a succession of TV channels to give the opposition response in both Spanish and English. Leaders of the "Dreamer" movement of young Latinos brought to the US as children and now battling to find a way to citizenship have singled Rubio out as a key target for their renewed struggle.

Cesar Vargas of the Dream Action Coalition said the powerful network of Hispanic activists that was put together during last year's presidential election to oppose Romney's controversial policy of "self deportation" would now be revived. They have chosen to focus on Rubio because he is fast becoming a crucial voice within the Republican party on immigration reform.

Dreamers regard the Florida senator with suspicion. Although he has joined the so-called "gang of eight" an alliance of eight US senators working to achieve comprehensive immigration reform Rubio has said he would make a pathway to citizenship for America's 11 million undocumented immigrants "contingent" on the US border with Mexico being secured.

Rubio, 41, has also spoken in vague terms about setting up a border commission controlled by south-western states that would have the power to delay the granting of citizenship until the border had been sealed to its satisfaction. Many Latino leaders see this as a ruse to stave off granting immigrants their rights indefinitely.

"We intend to remind Rubio and other Republicans that the Latino community will not accept conditions and contingencies on their citizenship. We will urge our community to hold senator Rubio to account," Vargas said.

Rubio is a Cuban American from Miami. He became a favourite of the Florida Tea Party when he ran in 2010 for a senate seat, beating the incumbent Republican governor of Florida, Charlie Crist, in the process.

Pamela Gomez of Dream Action Florida said Latino volunteers were being sent district by district to drum up community support for the new focus on Rubio. "We have created a state-wide strategy to make sure senator Rubio knows where we stand," she said.

Gomez came to Florida undocumented as a child from the Dominican Republic, only achieving US citizenship in 2011. She said five or six of her immediate family members were still without immigration papers.

Dreamer groups across the country have pledged to join the new campaign, including those in key swing states that Rubio would need to court were he to make a presidential run in 2016, as many anticipate. Nick Torres of Dream Activist Ohio pointed out that Obama won his state with the overwhelming support of 82% of local Latinos.

"Ohio is not traditionally considered a state with a large immigrant population, but we are seeing huge growth in the Ohio Latino community," Torres said.

Dreamer leaders signal opposition to Rubio on immigration reform | World news | guardian.co.uk