With his ham-handed treatment of the immigration issue, Rubio has insulted those moderate Republicans who support comprehensive immigration reform — George W. Bush, Jeb Bush, Carlos Gutierrez, Norm Coleman, Jon Huntsman, et al. They all stuck their necks out on this issue and took heat for it.
The problem isn’t just that Rubio made all these missteps. It’s that, when the issue is immigration, he’s not in a position to make any. He’s not like most of his Republican colleagues in Washington. He has an additional burden, stemming from his own ethnic background. As a Cuban-American whose father and mother came to this country in the late 1950s — even before that unique form of “amnesty” called the 1966 Cuban Adjustment Act provided Cuban refugees myriad ways to enter the United States legally — Rubio needs to tread lightly on this issue. Not every immigrant from Latin America, or the Caribbean, or Africa, or Asia gets the red carpet treatment afforded to many Cubans — at least those who can reach the U.S. shoreline.
Above all, Marco Rubio forgot the “eight minute rule.”
There are Mexican-Americans in states like Arizona, Texas, and New Mexico who can trace their ancestry in this country back hundreds of years. Many of them are rightfully offended when they’re profiled by local police, or words like “amnesty” are thrown around, or the 14th Amendment is threatened, or when college students brought here by their parents are denied a shot at legal status. And so when you’re a junior senator, and you clumsily stomp into that morass, it doesn’t hurt to be humble — especially when your own family has only been in this country for the equivalent of eight minutes.