Marco Rubio is getting ready for his close-up.
Following up on an item from a couple of weeks ago, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has been a senator for about a year now, but hasn't managed to do much of anything. The sum total of his legislative accomplishments? A resolution designating September 2011 as National Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Month.
As Rachel explained in a recent segment, the Florida Republican "is not a particularly serious guy in terms of what he has done in his Senate life or even as a Senate candidate." That's clearly true. But given his right-wing worldview, his ethnicity, and the electoral significance of his home state, Rubio is widely seen as a strong contender for the Republican presidential ticket in 2012.
And to that end, Rubio is scrambling to prepare for the national spotlight, publishing a memoir, hiring opposition researchers to identify potential controversies in his background, and even starting work on an important piece of legislation.
Recognizing the importance of immigration policy, the far-right senator is reportedly eyeing a proposal that would be similar to the popular Dream Act, only the Rubio version would take out the important parts.
Mr. Rubio's idea to make it palatable to his party is to offer them legalization without citizenship. "You can legalize someone's status," he says, "without placing them on a path toward citizenship." He warns that if Dream Act youths became citizens, they could -- horrors -- someday sponsor family members to enter legally. This idea is nothing more than some newly invented third-class status -- not illegal, but not American.
It's the Dream Act without the dream and should be dismissed out of hand....The only Dream Act worth passing is simple. It tells high schoolers who want to make something of themselves, for the good of the country, to go ahead. Join the military or go to college and take your place as full-fledged citizens in the only country you know. That Republicans reject this shows how far they have strayed from American ideals of assimilation and welcome.
If Rubio thinks this will help him appear more credible, he really hasn't thought this through.
The larger immigration issue isn't complicated. Every year, tens of thousands of young, undocumented immigrants graduate from American high schools, but are quickly stuck -- they can't qualify for college aid, and they can't work legally. America is the only home they've ever known -- in most cases, they were, at a very young age, brought into the country illegally by their parents -- but at 18, they have few options.
The DREAM Act (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act), which has traditionally enjoyed bipartisan support, provides a path to citizenship for these young immigrants -- graduate from high school, get conditional permanent residency status, go to college or serve in the military, pay some steep fees, and become eligible for citizenship. The Pentagon has urged Congress to pass it, and the CBO found that it lowers the deficit, a priority Republicans at least pretend to care about.
President Obama strongly supports the bill, and were it not for a Republican filibuster, it would have become law in late 2010. That GOP lawmakers like Orrin Hatch and Dick Lugar helped write the bill is a detail that seems to have slipped down the memory hole.
Rubio seems to think he can strike a compromise with a pale imitation of a popular, bipartisan proposal, but this almost certainly can't pass, since it will satisfy no one. So why bother? I suspect it's because Rubio and his party's leadership realize the GOP has a severe problem with Latino voters, and want to be able to say, "We support a different version of the Dream Act, so feel free to vote for us."
I don't imagine voters who care about the issue will fall for this, but for a senator eager to do something notable with Senate power, it's apparently the best Rubio can come up with.