Rubio: We need an immigration-reform plan that recognizes reality

Tomorrow, Barack Obama will launch his immigration-reform effort with a speech in Las Vegas.  Marco Rubio beats him to it by publishing a column in today’s Las Vegas Review-Journal explaining the bipartisan compromise that he helped to shape.  To continue to do nothing in a standoff, Rubio explains, would perpetuate the current de facto “amnesty” that has been in place for years, a fact that should worry both sides of the debate:

Both sides should want this kind of common-sense reform. To those concerned about illegal immigration, what we have now is de facto amnesty. To those looking to help the undocumented, families will continue being separated by deportations as long as politicians keep bickering and trying to outdo each other.

Mostly, though, Rubio wants to bolster support from his own side, while getting ahead of Obama and keeping the Republicans in play on the solution.  Rubio argues today that the plan represents an improvement over past proposals by forcing illegal immigrants to go to the back of the line and to provide substantial effort to remain in the country.  And that won’t come through a special process, but through a reformed immigration process that works the same for everyone:

It’s not a good idea to have millions of people permanently trapped in an immigration status that keeps them forever at a distance from our society. Therefore, once our new enforcement measures are certifiably in place, they should be allowed to apply for permanent status – not through a special pathway, but through the new and modernized legal immigration process we envision. They will have to wait behind everyone who applied before them legally. And when their turn comes up, they will have to meet the conditions of the visa they apply for.

In the past, efforts to accommodate the undocumented have failed because the enforcement measures were never implemented. That’s why this option to apply for a green card and get in the back of the line should not be made available until it is certified that significant progress has been made on enforcement of our immigration laws.

Will Rubio’s popularity with Tea Party Republicans help to quell opposition to bipartisan reform?  Matt Lewis notes that Rubio’s involvement forced the other members of the Gang of Eight to move to the right on border enforcement and visa reform, but that the test will be whether Republicans will accept a compromise that moves this issue off the table:

It’s one thing for Republicans to say they want to reform immigration policy, but the real test will be how they respond to the notion that a deal might actually pass.

Some will likely conclude that any bipartisan deal means our side is being “played.” This, of course, is a catch-22 — sort of like Groucho Marx’s line about not wanting to belong to any club that would accept him as a member.

No one likes having to cut deals, but voters in their less-than-infinite wisdom brought back split government to Washington, and that’s the only way that we will resolve this issue with any conservative input over the next four years.  We’ll see if the GOP puts its “prudence” strategy to work in this case, or lets Rubio twist in the wind.

Addendum: Senator Rubio will join me on today’s Ed Morrissey Show at 4 ET.