One of the main complaints some conservatives have against immigration reform is that a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants would create millions of moochers living off federal benefits. And what is the No. 1 symbol of American moocherdom? The Obamaphone. And so on Wednesday Shark Tank's Javier Manjarres unearthed its immigration counterpart: The MarcoPhone. Named for Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Manjarres thought he spotted a provision in the 855-page immigration bill that gives free cell phones to undocumented immigrants. Breitbart News reposted the story. Talk radio host Laura Ingraham picked it up. MofoPolitics.com led with the image at right. The only problem was that the MarcoPhone is even less real than the Obamaphone. The immigration bill gives cell phones to ranchers so they can report illegal immigrants and violence on the border. It was inspired by a rancher who was killed by illegal immigrants. Breitbart's Matthew Boyle posted a clarification.
Despite Obama never proposing free cell phones for anyone, the notion of Obamaphones has been latched onto by conservative media as a shorthand for government dependency. The meme broke out after the Drudge Report posted a video of a black woman in Cleveland yelling about getting an Obamaphone in the last weeks of the presidential campaign. In fact, President Obama didn't create the "Obamaphone" -- Ronald Reagan created a program for poor people to get phone service, and George W. Bush expanded it after Hurricane Katrina. Those facts swayed some conservatives, but not all, as The Washington Post's Karen Tumulty noted last week. House Speaker John A. Boehner tweeted in February, "Nobody should be talking about tax hikes when govt is spending taxpayer dollars on free cell phones." In a response to Obama's State of the Union address, Sen. Rand Paul said," For those who are struggling, we want to you to have something infinitely more valuable than a free phone." Arkansas Rep. Tim Griffin and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann are working on legislation to eliminate the program. "Should the federal government be giving people cellphones?" Griffin said. "What about iPads? Where do we draw the line on this stuff?" (Currently the line is drawn at a crappy flip phone with very few minutes of free service.)