Spring, 2015 SCoR Meeting at SSCA, Tampa
Rhetoric and Public Argument in Marco Rubio’s Immigration Discourse

2015 marked the sixth year that SCoR has hosted a seminar at the annual meeting of SSCA. This year, the co-sponsors for our double panel were the Rhetoric and Public Address Division and the Southern Argumentation and Forensics Division.

SCoR seminars at SSCA often have a local connection, and this year was no exception. This year, the SCoR panel focused on debates surrounding immigration and the uses of definition and the rhetorical construction of identity in those debates as exemplified in the speeches and statement of Florida Senator Marco Rubio.

Screen Shot 2015-03-27 at 9.52.45 PMRationale:
Policy arguments tend to turn as much on how terms in a dispute are defined as a means of influencing perception as on any presentation of facts. Many of the euphemisms and ideographs used to describe policy, whether positively or negatively, are really attempts to redefine the terms of a dispute as a way of framing perception and discussion. Immigration policy, a fraught site of contention between rival factions, is particularly susceptible to shifting definitions of citizenship, residency, identity.

Screen Shot 2015-03-27 at 9.49.22 PM
As the political parties attempt to grapple with the question of immigration policy, Marco Rubio, the junior Senator from Florida, emerged as a major spokesman, first for the proposed bi-partisan immigration reform bill and then as one of its major detractors. Recently, as he contemplates a run for the presidency, Rubio has emerged again as a supporter of immigration reform. What role does definition play in Rubio’s shifting positions on immigration and, indeed, on public understanding of the larger immigration issue? Does an examination of Rubio’s shifting positions on this policy issue shed any light on our understandings of how definition works in public argument?

The group looked at three of Rubio’s speeches (Jan 28, 2012; June 26, 2013; and Rubio’s 2015 CPAC speech), one from each phase of his thinking on immigration reform. There is also a letter from Rubio to President Obama addressing the flaws in Obama’s immigration policy. Rubio’s current positions on immigration are presented on his official Senate Website. For some background/overview on Rubio’s changing views on immigration, see Dan Stein’s Jan, 2013 article in Rubio’s “‘evolution’ on immigration” and David Catanese’s blog for US News, “The Run 2016.”

For each segment of the double panel, a group of panelists gave very brief critical précis, then the floor was opened to discussion.
Co-Sponsors: Rhetoric and Public Address Division, Southern Argumentation and Forensics Division
Moderator/Chair: Marilyn Young, Florida State University
Panelists: Antonio de Velasco, University of Memphis Abraham Kahn, University of South Florida Roseann Mandziuk, Texas State University William Trapani, Florida Atlantic University David Cratis Williams, Florida Atlantic University