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Marco Rubio—41-year-old son of working-class Cuban exiles—has lived the upwardly mobile immigrant experience. In his fast rise, the Florida Republican has also experienced the politics of immigration. That story isn’t so inspirational.

During his successful Senate campaign two years ago, an attack leaflet picturing “the Real Rubio” alongside an image of Che Guevara was sent to GOP voters. The mailer noted that Mr. Rubio championed laws in the state legislature to give children of illegal immigrants in-state tuition and health benefits. After going to Washington, he was then criticized for not doing enough on immigration reform. The Congressional Hispanic Caucus branded him “a wolf in sheep’s clothing” and a Miami-based Hispanic group called him “a Benedict Arnold.”

That may be mild compared to what’s coming. Florida’s junior senator and one of America’s most prominent Hispanic politicians wants to take the Republican lead on immigration reform. Getting out front of President Obama’s campaign pledge to overhaul the system in his second term, Mr. Rubio is laying out his ideas for possible legislation.

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