When President Barack Obama was swept back into the White House with the help of more than 70 percent of the Hispanic vote, the message to Republicans was clear: expand your base and reach out to Hispanics or be the minority party for years.
Now, a bipartisan group of U.S. senators, led by the persuasive voice of Florida Republican Marco Rubio, has agreed on an immigration plan to provide a path to citizenship for the 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States, including about 825,000 in Florida. The plan is in line with what Obama is advocating.
Rubio, the son of Cuban immigrants, proposes giving law-abiding illegal immigrants temporary legal status, with the opportunity to apply for citizenship. He wants to let undocumented migrants earn a work permit and undergo a background check. The plan also would involve paying a fine, back taxes and learning some English. Those who commit serious crimes would be deported.
The proposal of the eight senators would start with border control, a key element for many Republicans. It also would make sure visitors don't overstay visas and that employers use a verification system that ensures workers are here legally. The path to citizenship would be lengthy, but do-able.
Even with Rubio's support, passing meaningful legislation will be difficult. Many traditionalists, especially those who identify with the tea party, don't like the change that immigrants bring. But the timing will never be better to get something meaningful accomplished.
In the spirit of fairness, equality and the chance for a bright future — the reasons immigrants want to come to the United States — comprehensive immigration reform deserves its place on the nation's fast track.