SAN DIEGO -- When Marco Rubio sat down recently for an interview with Univision's Jorge Ramos, the spirited exchange made for great television. It also made Rubio look sympathetic, and Ramos unprofessional.
And to think, it almost didn't happen. There was a kerfuffle last year between Rubio and the Spanish-language television network. The Miami Herald reported that Univision's news chief had offered members of Rubio's staff a deal: If the senator agreed to appear on "Al Punto" -- the network's Sunday morning talk show hosted by Ramos -- and discuss immigration, the news division would soften or might even kill an embarrassing story about how Rubio's brother-in-law was convicted of drug trafficking in 1987. Univision executives denied tendering such an offer, but the editors at the Herald stand by the story.
The interview also made clear just how difficult it is to be a Hispanic elected official who is constantly expected -- by some in the advocacy-driven Spanish-language media -- to bend over backward and accommodate the demands of illegal immigrants, most of whom are also Hispanic.
Stop the tape! That a class of people who shouldn't even be in this country in the first place, and don't have a legal right to remain here, have demands at all is one of the things wrong with the immigration debate.
Rubio made a similar assertion during the interview, reiterating what he has said in other venues about how there is no right to immigrate illegally and how many Americans resent that illegal immigrants in the United States have a sense of entitlement about the kind of life they feel they deserve. This involves more than expecting legal status. For some, it includes all the benefits of U.S. citizenship -- no conditions to meet and no questions asked.
No, thank you. Americans have enough entitlement thinking already, on the part of U.S. citizens. We don't need immigrants to start adopting those ways.
These are valuable observations on Rubio's part. The senator is quite correct. The immigration debate isn't about rights, or expectations, or what people think they deserve. It's about what is best for the United States.
Personally, I think what is best is a pathway to earned legal status for many but not all of the estimated 10 million undocumented immigrants in this country. Other Americans think differently, and demand higher walls and more deportations. We are having that argument but -- as harsh as it sounds -- illegal immigrants don't get a vote in the matter. And when they forget that, and start making demands, it makes the job of those who are advocating for them much harder.
None of this seemed to get through to the Mexican-born Ramos, who really wanted to know why Rubio isn't more outspoken in defense of illegal immigrants. For instance, the journalist asked, how could it be that Rubio doesn't support "legalization of the undocumented"? Rubio tried to interject that, in fact, he does support legalization for some illegal immigrants under certain circumstances. He just thinks that the issue is more complicated than proponents of comprehensive immigration reform are willing to admit.
As Rubio tried to make his points, Ramos repeatedly cut him off so the anchor could make his. This wasn't an interview as much as an interrogation. Time and again, Ramos made clear that he expected better from the son of Cuban immigrants.
Unlike many Cuban-Americans, Rubio's parents can't be called "refugees" because they came to the United States before Fidel Castro came to power in 1959. Ramos wanted to know how the son of immigrants could fail to "defend the poorest, the most persecuted victims, the most vulnerable" -- which include the undocumented. Rubio reminded Ramos that his parents came legally. So there is no comparison.
It didn't do any good. Nothing was getting through.
For many immigrant advocates, Rubio already has two strikes against him. He opposed the original version of the DREAM Act, which would have offered legal status and a pathway to U.S. citizenship to undocumented immigrants who went to college or joined the military. And he supported the Arizona immigration law.
For what it's worth, I think that Rubio has his positions backward. He should support the DREAM Act and oppose the Arizona law. But he has the right to be wrong.
Rubio's immigration views deserve a fair hearing. They didn't get one from Ramos and Univision.
Ruben Navarrette's email address is email@example.com.Copyright 2012 Washington Post Writers Group