President Obama's approach to immigration policy has always been quite transparent: he would focus heavily on enforcement and border security at the outset, which would, in theory, engender goodwill from Republicans and create some legislative breathing room for comprehensive reform.
The results haven't been constructive, at least not with any regularity. Even when Obama cracked down on illegal immigration and deportation rates soared, Republicans spent the last few years pretending reality doesn't exist. All the while, the deportations themselves hurt countless families and communities, and caused hard feelings between the White House and its ostensible allies.
But quite recently, something interesting happened: Obama's strategy started to work. Just yesterday, one of his fiercest critics effectively admitted as much.
Sen. John McCain said Tuesday that the improving situation on the country's southwestern border has been critical to making immigration reform possible -- and that Republicans will demand additional enforcement alongside reform measures such as a pathway to citizenship.
"There has been real improvements in border security," McCain told reporters in the Capitol. Asked if that helps the politics of reform, he said, "Sure. I think it helps a lot." He argued that the situation has considerably improved "over the last five, six years" and called some of the concerns "over-hyped."
To be sure, McCain isn't going to give Obama credit. In fact, by saying "five, six years," the senator seems eager to give the impression that this pre-dates the president's term, but substantively, McCain is grudgingly acknowledging what is plainly true: Obama did what the right hoped he'd do, and in turn, the progress "helps" the prospects for reform "a lot."
It is, however, a detail Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) is reluctant to accept.
Posturing like this just isn't helpful.
Senator Marco Rubio, the Florida Republican seen as an influential party voice on an issue that cost Republicans in last year's voting, said he was "concerned by the president's unwillingness to accept significant enforcement triggers before current undocumented immigrants can apply for a green card."
"Without such triggers in place," he went on, "enforcement systems will never be implemented, and we will be back in just a few years dealing with millions of new undocumented people in our country."
It's hard to know the extent to which Rubio is confused, but the senator's rhetoric makes it sound as if Obama is unconcerned with enforcing current laws, and Congress needs some kind of legislative remedy to force the administration's hand.
Maybe Rubio can have a chat with McCain?
The facts are indisputable: the increased border security Republicans wanted to see has happened, as have the deportations Republicans hoped for. Rubio doesn't need triggers; he needs to open his eyes.