The Immigration Trap
The Democrats have gotten the great Republican hope, Marco Rubio, to sign on to a measure that accomplishes nearly all of their goals on immigration:
“The pre-bill marketing campaign — driven by leaks that seemed to come from Republican negotiators — focused on stringent new border-control measures and a long, difficult path to citizenship. The goal was to minimize conservative opposition by creating a first impression of the bill as a tough solution to the country’s illegal immigration problem. But when Democrats got a look at the 844-page measure, they discovered that their negotiators extracted more concessions than they thought possible. Those include an expansive version of the DREAM Act and subtle but meaningful tradeoffs on all the major pieces of the system, from family reunification to legalization and border security… Republicans succeeded in making the path to legalization contingent upon the government meeting border security benchmarks, prohibiting undocumented immigrants from accessing federal benefits even as they pay taxes, blocking a provision to allow foreign spouses of same-sex couples to apply for visas, and creating a temporary worker program. But in return, Democrats got what Mary Giovagnoli, a former Kennedy immigration aide and director of the Immigration Policy Center, called an “extremely generous legalization program.”
About the only thing they didn’t get was their preferred cutoff date of December 31, 2012. Everything else is in there.
The problem for the Republican Party is that either path they follow on the immigration policy front leads to all sorts of bad things. Consider Conn Carroll’s proposal here in this context:
“Why not give those found illegally in the United States a simple choice? You can stay and become legal by registering with the federal government, but if you do, you forfeit all chance of becoming an American citizen. This offer would depend, of course, on passing an extensive background check paid for by the immigrant in question. And if this policy was open not just to those in the country today, but also those found illegally in the country tomorrow, it would not be amnesty in any way. It would just be a new legal alternative to deportation. Considering that far less than half of those who were granted resident status in 1986 ever bothered to become citizens, why are Democrats so focused on guaranteeing citizenship this time around?”
Trying to find a middle path between amnesty and deportation sounds well and good – I don’t share Peter Skerry’s view that there needs to be a prohibition on eventual citizenship, but what Carroll proposes is certainly better than the status quo and the current proposal – the challenge is that neither side will find Carroll’s position acceptable. There is no appetite for meeting the actual market needs for low-skilled labor – for legalizing people without making them citizens. The Michelle Malkins of the world will yell shamnesty (they will not be content until millions of people are packed into train cars and headed south), while on the other side, Marco Rubio’s press secretary compared the idea outright to slavery.
What we have here is more than a failure to communicate, it’s a failure of leadership. The immigration policy negotiation should’ve been an opportunity for Rubio to prove that he is more than just a biography staffed by the ambitious. Instead, he may have made an error that could prove crippling by jumping into this fractious policy arena before the base has been brought along to where the party elite is on the subject, provoking all sorts of backlash not just from Rush Limbaugh listeners but now getting into it with the Heritage Foundation, too. It’s a classic big unwieldy bit of Washington pork barrel politics, with carveouts for state interests.
Or maybe the problem is that the bill just won’t do what was promised. Byron York:
“One key trigger, they claimed, was the creation and empowerment of something called the Southern Border Security Commission. If within five years after the passage of the bill, the Secretary of Homeland Security has failed to increase border security to a level in which 100 percent of the border is under surveillance and 90 percent of those attempting to cross illegally are caught — if Homeland Security has not reached those goals, then the Commission would be formed. It wouldn’t be the standard, do-nothing Washington commission, Gang sources argued. Instead, it would have real legal authority to actually carry out the border security measures that the Secretary of Homeland Security had failed to accomplish.”
“It sounded tough, intended to convince skeptical conservatives that reform would be based on stringent border security. But as it turns out, the structure Gang sources described is simply not in the bill… The bill requires that the head of the Government Accountability Office then review the report to determine whether the Commission’s recommendations are likely to work and what they will cost. And then — the process stops. “The Commission shall terminate 30 days after the date on which the report is submitted,” says the bill. There is nothing about the Commission going from “being an advisory panel to a policy-making one.” The strict trigger that Gang sources advertised as being in the bill just isn’t there.”
Mickey Kaus has more on that here.
The Gang will continue to try to emphasize the security portions of the law in the days ahead, in response to the backlash over Boston. But it remains to be seen if any of that will stick. Claims like this from Dick Durbin just don’t make sense at all, and sound like the bluster they are. Waiting on the sidelines are hardliners like Ted Cruz, who could prove very problematic for Rubio. And none of the participants are operating from a position of real trust on the issue. It’s just a great big mess.
This could all reach a boiling point in the days ahead, one that will only please the White House, given that they never wanted a policy to pass to begin with, as I noted back in January.
“The President apparently likes this situation just fine: he’s now weighed in with his own framework for an immigration plan, which does absolutely nothing in terms of meaningful reform targeted at the root cause of the problem (the persistent black market in unskilled labor) and instead amounts to Simpson Mazzoli 2013. Why would the president do such a thing, making passage of an immigration plan less likely by coming out in favor of an even more obviously political ploy in lieu of a real policy solution? Isn’t it obvious? … The mission isn’t a reasonable solution for very real immigration policy problems, it’s political destruction of the enemy. Thus, Democrats benefit either way, even if the nation doesn’t.”
[First published at Real Clear Politics]