Rubio’s aware of the popularity of the Democrats’ DREAM plan that would provide a pathway to citizenship to the children of illegal immigrants if they attend college or join the military. Thus, he’s in the process of putting together a bill that would allow young illegal immigrants to stay in the United States, but without the promise of citizenship.
Moderate Republicans are paying attention; they know that Hispanics overwhelmingly supported Barack Obama in 2008, and polls show that they will likely do so again.
Rubio, the son of Cuban exiles, appears to be the Republican’s best hope to capture more of the Hispanic vote.
However, the biggest obstacle to Sen. Rubio’s plan, and perhaps to his own vice presidential ambitions, lies within his own party.
Even before the presidential primaries, GOP anti-immigrant rhetoric created a climate of distrust in the Hispanic community, a group of voters located in key swing states. Those anti-immigrant Republicans have not wavered in their opposition to any legislation that would allow illegal immigrants to remain in the country. They see the Rubio proposal as an amnesty plan that is no better than what the Democrats are proposing.
Add to this a general skepticism in the Hispanic community itself, a widely held feeling that this is a political ploy that will allow illegal immigrants to stay in the country as cheap labor but not allow them the opportunity of become citizens.
What the Rubio plan reveals is the dilemma the Republicans face when confronting the issue of immigration and the lack of options they have to deal with it. It may also reveal how little chance Marco Rubio has of becoming the party’s consensus choice for second place on the GOP ticket.