During his successful Senate campaign two years ago, an attack leaflet picturing “the Real Rubio” alongside an image of Che Guevara was sent to GOP voters. The mailer noted that Mr. Rubio championed laws in the state legislature to give children of illegal immigrants in-state tuition and health benefits. After going to Washington, he was then criticized for not doing enough on immigration reform. The Congressional Hispanic Caucus branded him “a wolf in sheep’s clothing” and a Miami-based Hispanic group called him “a Benedict Arnold.”

That may be mild compared to what’s coming. Florida’s junior senator and one of America’s most prominent Hispanic politicians wants to take the Republican lead on immigration reform. Getting out front of President Obama’s campaign pledge to overhaul the system in his second term, Mr. Rubio is laying out his ideas for possible legislation. …

His wholesale fix tries to square—triangulate, if you will—the liberal fringe that seeks broad amnesty for illegal immigrants and the hard right’s obsession with closing the door. Mr. Rubio would ease the way for skilled engineers and seasonal farm workers while strengthening border enforcement and immigration laws. As for the undocumented migrants in America today—eight to 12 million or so—he proposes to let them “earn” a working permit and, one day, citizenship.