Leading Republican Senate candidate Rubio now likes it. He is however a bit behind the Independent Crist in the polls. The Democrat is nowhere. Rubio’s new position might help him overhaul Crist

The writer below trots out the usual open borders boilerplate about “papers” and “reasonable suspicion” — ignoring as usual that the carrying papers requirement has been Federal law since the 1930s and that “reasonable suspicion” is a conventional requirement of police in many aspects of law enforcement

Facing a media throng recently in West Miami that included Spanish-language television, U.S. Senate candidate Marco Rubio left no doubt where he stood on a contentious new immigration law in Arizona.

The law makes it a crime for immigrants not to carry their legal papers and gives police sweeping powers to detain people suspected of being in the U.S. illegally. Critics say that without legal criteria for “reasonable suspicion,” Hispanics and others will fall prey to racial and ethnic profiling.

“I think the law has potential unintended consequences, and it’s one of the reasons why I think immigration needs to be a federal issue, not a state one,” Rubio said at the April 27 event, where he signed the official papers to be on the 2010 ballot. “That’s how I felt when I was in the Florida House.”

(About a half-dozen bills aimed at curbing illegal immigration foundered when Rubio was House speaker and had the power to make or break legislation.)

Rubio added at the West Miami event: “Everyone is concerned with the prospect of the reasonable suspicion provisions where individuals could be pulled over because someone suspects they may not be legal in this country,” he said. “I think over time people will grow uncomfortable with that.”

Asked specifically about immigrants being required to produce documents at a moment’s notice, the son of Cuban exiles said, “That’s not really something that Americans are comfortable with, the notion of a police state.”

But a few tweaks was all it took for Rubio to get comfortable with a law viewed as the harshest crackdown on illegal immigration in the country.

Nine days later — after his position stirred a blogospheric storm among Tea Partiers and after a poll found most Florida voters support the law — the conservative website Human Events posted an interview in which Rubio said he would have voted for the amended version. “The second one that passed hit the right note. Yes,” he said.

“I mean no one is in favor of a bill that would force American citizens to have to interact with law enforcement in a way that wasn’t appropriate. And the first bill I thought held that door open. Since then, the changes that have been made to the bill I think greatly improve it.”

What changed? A couple of days after Rubio balked at the law in West Miami, Arizona lawmakers limited police to investigating the legal status of a person who is stopped, detained or arrested because of another offense, like speeding, as opposed to a person who is just asking for directions.

At the same time, the law was expanded to require police to determine legal status when they come across local violations, meaning a dark-skinned homeowner with an accent and an old car propped up on cement blocks would potentially be subject to questioning.

The law was also reworded to say that police “may not consider race, color or national origin” in an effort to address concerns about racial profiling.

“Marco’s position has been consistent. It’s the law that has changed since his first comments on it,” said campaign spokesman Alex Burgos.

But the changes don’t appear to have eliminated the shortcomings Rubio laid out in West Miami. Not carrying immigration papers — the provision that Rubio said evoked a “police state” — remains a crime. Rubio’s concern about the police questioning someone based on a “reasonable suspicion” of illegal status? Still there. And still no explanation of what an illegal immigrant is supposed to look like.

The law’s prominent opponents — including Rubio’s political mentor and one of his most important backers, former Gov. Jeb Bush — remain prominent opponents.

In contrast, Rubio said one thing to a bilingual group of reporters in West Miami and something different to a Washington website where one regular columnist asked recently, “What’s Wrong With Racial Profiling Anyway?”

Even Senate rival Charlie Crist, a frequent practitioner of the art of flip-flopping, hasn’t backed down from his reservations about the immigration law. The leading Democratic candidate in the race, U.S. Rep. Kendrick Meek of Miami, also came out against the law.