Fabiola Santiago

Senator Marco Rubio is back at work. Latinos, duck!

A failed presidential bid later, Sen. Marco Rubio still has learned nothing.

Once touted as the Republican Party’s savior and future, the Florida senator doesn’t get why he lost his dreamy, Obama-like shot at the presidency as a one-term senator — and quickly.

The Miami son underestimated the political sophistication of his hometown base and how close to our hearts we cradle heritage and the immigrant story. He disappointed beyond repair when he took up tea-party rhetoric, the NRA and the Koch brothers’ agenda as his own, abandoning immigration reform to pursue a discourse pitched to non-Hispanic whites fearful of a demographically changing America.

The ultra-conservative wing of the Republican Party propped him up — then dropped him for zanier characters Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, whose candidacies strike such fear in many hearts that even some Republicans are saying they would rather vote for Hillary Clinton than Trump or Cruz.

Thanks to Republicans like Rubio who cater to xenophobia and big-money interests, the GOP is unrecognizable and in crisis. You’d think he would be at least engaging in some soul-searching. But not this chronically absent senator, clueless about the problems at home, partisan until final political death arrives.

He may have found his seat in the Senate — he even delivered a rousing speech, something he does do well — but he’ll go down working against his people.

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Rubio’s great idea this week: to strip Cuban immigrants of benefits in the middle of a crisis.

“No one can argue this,” he lectured the Senate in typical over-the-top confidence.

Latinos, duck. The senator is back at work.

Surely there’s much congressional work to be done on the subject of unruly, never-ending Cuban immigration at our doorstep — a comprehensive solution that works along with President Obama’s engagement policy to improve people’s lives on the island and foster democratic change. The Cuban Adjustment Act and the wet-foot/dry-foot policy are due for a revisiting — but a thoughtful one, and not, as Rubio proposed, wholesale punishment for the sins of some with the strike of a unilateral congressional mandate.

Stripping immigrants of benefits in the middle of an on-going immigration crisis from Cuba via Central America and by boat would wreak havoc in a region like Miami-Dade, where many end up resettling. It would tax local services to the breaking point, officials have told me. It would lead to more homelessness and add another layer of people living in poverty.

But Rubio, he just wants to appease the voters he meets at the grocery store.

“… When I go home and I run into somebody at the grocery store, I can’t explain to them with a straight face why the Senate won’t give me a vote, because it makes no sense. If I came to you and said, ‘They are stealing $700 million a year from you, and here’s a very simple way to stop it,’ you would say, ‘Let’s do it. We’ve got to do it.’ 

Rubio, the savior, hard at work seeking bipartisan support to rein in the less fortunate to save the American taxpayer.

How about, instead, working with congressional leaders —– and with the administration — to come up with an updated and intelligent strategy to address Cuba and Cuban immigration issues, not to mention to fund an urgently needed and improved resettlement program?

One that includes, as was successfully done during the balsero crisis of the early 1990s, the schooling for refugees on life in the United States. Everything — from how to get car insurance to workplace issues — was addressed in the federally funded program administered at various Miami Dade College campuses.

Surely there’s no place for fraud in benefits programs or anywhere else — and the guilty should be taken to task, removed from the program, and if appropriate, prosecuted. But what Rubio proposes puts the cart before the horse — before the horse is even around — and leaves the existing situation unaddressed.

Luckily, the Senate refused to even vote on his proposal.

Like the voters, the senators didn’t buy his sales pitch.

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