In terms of legislative strategy, Mr. Rubio says he would want to see "a comprehensive package of bills"—maybe four or five as opposed to one omnibus—move through Congress concurrently. He says other experience with "comprehensive" reform (ObamaCare, the recent debt deal) shows how bad policy easily sneaks into big bills. It would also offer a tempting big target for opponents. Other reformers think that only a comprehensive bill can address the toughest issues. "It's not a line in the sand for me," replies Mr. Rubio. Not missing a chance to tweak the president, he says that Mr. Obama has "not done a thing" on reform and may prefer to keep it alive as an electoral winner for Democrats with Hispanics for years to come. But, then again, "maybe he's interested in his legacy," Mr. Rubio adds, and open to a deal. The president, he says, would need to bring over Big Labor and talk back the most ardent pro-immigration groups from "unrealistic" positions on citizenship for illegals. On the right, nativist voices in last year's primary campaign gave birth to phrases such as "electric fence" (Herman Cain), "self-deportation" (Mitt Romney) and other nuggets that turned Hispanic voters off. Mr. Rubio counters that most conservatives understand that immigrants are entrepreneurial and assimilate easily. "Immigration is actually an important part of affirming a limited-government movement," he says. Is immigration reform a magic bullet for the GOP's troubles with Hispanic voters? "No," Mr. Rubio says, but "the immigration issue is a gateway issue for Hispanics, no doubt about it. No matter what your stance is on a number of other issues, if people somehow come to believe that you don't like them or want them here, it's difficult to get them to listen to anything else." He adds: "I think it's the rhetoric by a handful of voices in the minority, but loud nonetheless, that have allowed the left to create an unfair perception that conservatives and Republicans are anti-Hispanic and anti-immigration, and we do have to overcome that."The Journal's interviewer, Matt Kaminski,who is on the Editorial Board of the WSJ, concludes:
After two relatively quiet years in the Senate, Mr. Rubio is taking his first significant risk. Often mentioned in talk about a 2016 presidential run, he has decided to make immigration a signature issue.Good luck, Marco, in going across that briar patch!