My Immigration Firestorm
Campaigning from behind.

An American Son, by Marco Rubio (Sentinel Penguin)


Marco Rubio

I understand it is a difficult issue. It’s a law-and-order issue. But it’s also an issue about human dignity and common decency. And when we lose sight of either aspect of the issue, we harm ourselves as well as the people who wish to live here. Many people who come here illegally are doing exactly what we would do if we lived in a country where we couldn’t feed our families. If my kids went to sleep hungry every night and my country didn’t give me an opportunity to feed them, there isn’t a law, no matter how restrictive, that would prevent me from coming here. We should debate our differences on immigration with regard to all the issues that deserve our respect and attention.

The firestorm over the immigration issue slowly died down, but the BP oil spill was an entirely different matter. Crist used his governor’s office masterfully and to full effect. It seemed as if he held a press conference every night to highlight his latest effort to save Florida’s coastline. He took well-publicized trips to affected beaches. He called for a special session of the legislature to pass an off-shore drilling ban.

My campaign was knocked off balance. For over a year, our plan was a simple one. We needed to convince Republican primary voters to send someone to Washington who would stand up to President Obama and the Democratic leadership in Congress. There was no way Charlie Crist could win a primary that was defined by that aspiration. But I no longer had a primary opponent. I had general-election opponents. My message had to be broader. And we hadn’t yet found one. As Memorial Day neared and another poll showed Crist ahead, some of the campaign staff became seriously worried that we were drifting.

I took my family to the Florida Keys for a few days of rest over the holiday weekend. On Saturday morning I got a call from my sister Barbara. My father was incoherent and barely conscious. Jeanette and I raced home from the Keys and met my family at the hospital. My father’s condition looked very grim.

Another battery of tests couldn’t confirm what was wrong. He was suffering stroke-like symptoms. His mouth was turned down and his speech was slurred. The words we could manage to make out didn’t make sense.

He improved slowly over the next few days. I spent the nights sleeping in a cot next to his bed. He kept me awake much of the night as he called out to his brothers, Papo and Emilio. He addressed them as if they were in the room. Is this what you see before you die? I wondered. Do you see your deceased relatives arrive to bring you to the afterlife?

As it turned out, he was hallucinating, probably in reaction to the chemotherapy. He had gotten an infection from the chemo that manifested itself neurologically. We brought him home a few days later. It was clear now there would be no more chemotherapy. All we could do now was make him as comfortable as possible for however many weeks or months he had left.

— Marco Rubio represents Florida in the U.S. Senate and is author of An American Son, from which this is excepted by arrangement with Sentinel Penguin, a member of Penguin Group (USA), Inc. Copyright © 2012 by Marco Rubio


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