WASHINGTON (CBSMiami) – In political terms, it was the equivalent of seeing a poltergeist. It couldn’t be real, but there it was: ultra-conservative Republican Florida Senator Marco Rubio standing side-by-side with super liberal Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer in Washington Monday, advancing a bipartisan, comprehensive immigration reform plan.
In broad terms, the plan would tighten border security; an attractive draw for conservatives, and provide a path to citizenship for some 11 million undocumented immigrants believed to be in the country; an element wanted by liberals.
“I see immigration everyday,” said Rubio at the DC news conference. “I see the good of immigration. We have to be honest with ourselves about how important immigration is to our economy.”
While the love fest stressed a bipartisan effort, both sides conceded the devil may be in the details, and it will take hard work to get the deal done.
In Miami, immigrant activists gathered and chanted in support of amnesty for undocumented immigrants now in the country.
“Say yes! Di que si!” the crowd shouted.
Among the speakers was 19 year -old Frederico Baseiro who came to the United States from Argentina with his mother and younger brother 12 years ago. The children have received temporary amnesty – or “deferred action” – under an executive order from the Obama administration.
The grace period is only for two years, however. Frederico’s parents could be picked up, imprisoned and deported at any time.
Frederico wore a black T-shirt with white block letters across the front, reading: UNDOCUMENTED.
“We need to have hope and I believe in a reform,” the young man told CBS4’s Gary Nelson.
There have been individual triumphs.
Last year, North Miami Senior High Valedictorian Daniela Pelaez was facing exile after immigration authorities learned of her undocumented status. She had come to the United States with her parents as a toddler.
“Over my dead body will she be deported,” declared Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho at a rally for Daniela’s cause. An immigration judge eventually granted her a reprieve, allowing her to accept a scholarship she had been granted to Dartmouth.
But now there is the promise of an across the board deal.
The political winds are changing.
When campaigning for Governor in Miami in June, 2010, Rick Scott enthusiastically endorsed a tough, Arizona-style immigration law.
“If you’re here illegally, and you’re stopped for doing something wrong, you should be deported,” Scott told CBS4 News at the time.
Scott has since backed off that position.
At the Miami rally Monday newly minted Democratic Congressman Joe Garcia credited an inescapable political reality: The re-election of President Barack Obama and Democratic gains in the Capitol – a message from the people to both sides, Garcia said, that gridlock, “just say no,” will no longer get it.
“I think the nation played the music they can both dance to, and it’s a great opportunity to move forward,” Garcia said.
President Obama will travel to Nevada Tuesday to lay out his vision for broad immigration reform.