It didn’t turn out this way. Rubio has become a colossal disappointment. His critics, and his own presidential ambition, got the better of him.
He has dropped support for a comprehensive approach – one that enforces the border, gives employers guest workers, and provides legal status to the undocumented – and undermined his own bill. Through a spokesman, he returned in October to advocating something that he supported a year earlier, before all this started: a piecemeal approach that tries to solve at least part of the problem by, for instance, ensuring that agriculture has workers or offering legal status to young people brought here by their parents.
I understand the appeal of half a loaf. Now that Congress has ducked comprehensive immigration reform for another year, the idea of attacking this problem in a piecemeal fashion is looking better and better. But when you’re a member of Congress, and you’re supposed to lead the way on immigration reform, you should pick a lane and stay there. Otherwise, you’re going in circles.
Given his retreat, Rubio may have actually diminished the GOP brand among Latinos. He sent the message that, despite their lip service about immigration reform, Republicans won’t stand up to right-wing nativists. He is lost, and so is the party.