Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), delivered an impressive speech today on what is, or what surely will be one of the hot-button issues in this year's presidential election -- immigration. The speech, at the Hispanic Leadership Network, did not start easily for what many believe is on a short list for the eventual Republican nominee's pick to be the vice-presidential running mate. Senator Rubio did little to disappoint the party's faithful. He was indeed impressive. Whether his impressive approach elevates the conversation and results in change that benefits this country is, however, still an open question. Nevertheless, his poise was remarkable. Shortly after he began his presentation, Rubio poked some fun at protestors who apparently hired a plane with a banner that noted "no somos rubios," which has he noted, literally means they aren't blonde, and Rubio observed that neither is he. After that moment of levity, three protestors, courageous young students, at least one with whom I believe I have worked in the past, noted that they were undocumented students and pleaded for Rubio to help them. After some in the audience sought to shout the students down, Rubio asked that they remain and listen to his speech. In perhaps classic politician maneuvering, he noted that the students decided to leave. The video, however, suggests that the students were ushered out of the building.
In any event, Senator Rubio proceeded to tackle the issue of immigration in what this writer believes was an impressive and sensible fashion. In fact, the Republican golden boy took some in his party to task. After attacking President Obama's philosophy on a host of matters, he noted that the republican party cannot continue to use hateful rhetoric to address immigration. Perhaps realizing the consequences of such an approach in states like Florida, Rubio called for his party to not be "the illegal immigration party, but the pro-legal immigration party." this statement was greeted with loud applause. For many writers and advocates of immigrant rights, like myself, the call to end hateful and racist rhetoric was refreshing.
Senator Rubio went as far as to address the DREAM Act that protested him moments earlier. He even appeared, somewhat surprisingly, sympathetic to them. He said he understood their circumstances and agreed that something should be done to address the plight of those who came to this country as children and have excelled in either education or the military. This observer, was virtually holding his breath, as some might have expected Rubio to then proclaim his support for the DREAM Act, but alas, he did not. He stated that the current bills before Congress, i.e., the DREAM Act, went too far.
For those of us that have long fought the good fight for reform, we have sadly heard similar stories before. While this writer sincerely hopes he is proven wrong by the enactment of bipartisan legislation that includes some form of the DREAM Act, many of us have witnessed the most sensible Republicans provide similar promises, only to later change their position or do little other than supporting an enforcement-only approach to immigration. For instance, Senator John McCain was truly heroic in his efforts with Senator Ted Kennedy, a true immigration champion, in proposing comprehensive reform in 2006, but when he became the republican presidential nominee he changed his position and emphasized an "enforcement-only" approach to immigration. Indeed, just last week, when President Obama, during his State of the Union Address, called for the passage of the DREAM Act, Senator McCain neither stood in support, nor even applaud a measure he once endorsed. Perhaps Senator Rubio is the real deal, and his unique talents and impressive abilities can lead to reform, perhaps even a slightly more conservative version of the DREAM Act? Sadly, Senator Rubio did not provide details, only criticized the current bill -- the DREAM Act.
Senator Rubio, are you golden? Can you, despite cynicism, lead this country to end hateful rhetoric and provide a path of legitimacy to the hundred of thousands of innocent youngsters that have committed no wrong and allow them to live the American DREAM and help all of us in this country? Or are you going to be a figurehead golden boy and talk the good game when in Florida, only to forget about sensible responses when you are in Washington? Perhaps when you return to our nation's capitol, you can introduce legislation that does not "go too far"? I hope the favorable impression you have left us with by this impressive speech continues.