Political Animal


January 29, 2013 12:24 PM Immigration Reform Linchpin

By Ed Kilgore

As we await the president’s speech on immigration reform (due to be delivered at 2:55 EST in Las Vegas), the much-ballyhooed Senate Gang of Eight agreement on the subject continues to spring leaks. WaPo’s Greg Sargent puts his finger on the main problem:

One of the central questions about the Senate’s new immigration plan remains: Does the new Southwestern border commission it creates have to declare the border secure before the path to citizenship is triggered?
The answer is central to the prospects for reform. If the answer is Yes, the commission could give veto power over the fate of 11 million undocumented immigrants to the likes of Jan Brewer. Yet the bipartisan Gang of 8 Senators differ on this.
On CBS this morning, John McCain said the “final decision” about whether the border is secure will be made by the Department of Homeland Security, which suggests a diminished role for this commission, while remaining inconclusive on precisely how this process will work. But in an interview with Ed Morrissey late yesterday, Marco Rubio suggested he won’t support a path to citizenship unless the commission does sign off on border security, a position he reiterated in another interview. There’s no clear agreement even among Republicans about the role of this commission.
Meanwhile, Dem Senate aides tell me that the commission’s role is designed to be purely advisory and nonbinding. At the same time, Chuck Schumer’s office declined to respond to my request for clarification on this point.
Can we get a straight answer on this, please?

Well, often in politics key questions are left unanswered or left to the imagination of listeners when agreement is difficult or impossible. “Enforcement must come first” has been the principal conservative objection to comprehensive immigration for decades. Supporters of reform are forever offering tougher enforcement in exchange for a path to citizenship, but such offers are rarely considered sufficient unless they involve identifying, exposing and punishing every undocumented person before they become eligible for legalization. To the extent that the Gang of Eight’s proposal actually identifies an entity in charge of determining that enforcement has become sufficient, it’s a big step forward. But if it transpires that even the authors can’t answer basic questions about it, any step forward may soon be reversed.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • c u n d gulag on January 29, 2013 1:13 PM:

    This is probably all Kabuki, so the Republicans can look like they are leaning towards reform, but it's those nasty, xenophobic Democrats who are the ones holding up progress, because they can't guarantee the Republicans, that they've sealed-off the border, 100%!

    Nothing's gonna happen.

  • max on January 29, 2013 1:13 PM:

    But if it transpires that even the authors canít answer basic questions about it, any step forward may soon be reversed.

    I am pretty sure I could work a straight-up bipartisan trade, if I could cut out the upper-crust Republicans. The swap would be that with the 11 million is that we take lot the lot, excepting people with violent felonies, as long as they have lived here continuously since, I dunno, Jan 1. 2009. They'd have to take a basic civics class and for that they'd have to speak some very basic English, with the timetable set so that anybody who can get in, can get in within five years.

    In return we roll out a wall (not a fence, not electrified, no land mines - a proper military defensive structure that also functions as a humane mousetrap) over the desert sections between El Paso and San Diego (gaps at the main crossing points like Mexicali), backed up by a proper six-lane highway to provide service access and the rapid movement of goods between Asia (via San Diego) and Texas. The idea here is that people will continue to try and sneak across at the gaps, or just shift to trying to pass through Texas, but the defensive sections will be dense enough to render them effectively impassable, so I won't have my idiots shooting at their idiots, people dying in the desert, people skulking across the deserts with guns or drugs (it's hard to skulk across a six-lane highway).

    We get out guys citizenship, they get a wall, and everybody gets a ginourmous public works project. Over the long run it'd probably be cheaper, and certainly less brutal.

    But our upper-crusty types wouldn't like that at all, because they don't like to spend money and they like people skulking across the desert. In particular, they want people to keep coming for the lovely cheap labor, but without giving them any rights which might result in voting and drawing benefits and what have you.

    I'm pretty sure that's what yesterday was about - they say there is a path to citizenship, but nothing comes of it but your John McCain's get the cheap (and easily deported) servants. Rinse and repeat. As bonus, that allows the R's to begin the process of burying gun control because 23 months is not enough time to legislate on immigration and gun control: "Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) told Fox News Tuesday that he doubts Congress will have time for gun violence legsislation this term. But he said he's ready to battle the push for new gun regulations should the time be found."

    So they push out an 'agreement on principles' which in theory is an agreement on practice, but in practice is only an agreement in theory. That shoves the gun control stuff off the table, and then later it turns out immigration legislation fails due to something or another. And rich guys continue to get the cheap, easily deported labor. And then our R friends campaign against those darn Mexicans some more.

    I do believe half our Gang of Eight got played, just like half our Gang of Six got played in 2009.

    ['I love DC, don't you?']

  • kwd on January 29, 2013 1:28 PM:

    Will anyone ask about the Florida situation and all the Cuban immigrants, or is this thing only directed at Mexicans coming in through the American Southwest?

  • Anonymous on January 29, 2013 1:30 PM:

    i think immigration reform will pass this time.
    it has public support as well as economic reality that America will need more than ever younger healthier immigrants to fill the demographic gap between baby boomers and their kids' generations.

    i think the fear of losing young immigrants to Asia and Canada, Australia and England will overcome the racist bias or overblown fear of having Americans' jobs taken by foreigners.

    border security is overblown concern anyway. Mexicans are not having as many kids as they used to and their wages are raising so they have less and less incentives to immigrate illegally. In 10 years, we will be asking them to immigrate, in fact.

    I also wonder it includes dream act in it? i assume so. just haven't heard about children of undocumented workers in the news.

  • cwolf on January 29, 2013 1:45 PM:

    Can we get a straight answer on this, please?
    Sure you can.
    Just ask Drudge.

  • Jim Pharo on January 29, 2013 6:06 PM:

    ...And we have already assumed away the actual question.

    The idea that there needs to be some minimum level of borer "security" or "enforcement" before anything happens is wrong. It is a fig leaf to cover the changing of this GOP's zebra stripes. This administration has already done far more enforcement than any in history with a fair amount of tragic results). It has also spent on border fences, patrols, etc. So the real question for me is what more do they want? As far as I'm concerned, there's no need to further secure an already secure border.

    If the want an Israeli/Soviet style wall, screw 'em, I say. If they want something else, I'm all ears, but I suspect that the wide-spread skepticism of this mechanism as nothing more than an ever-moving goal post is 110% justified. Plus Marco Rubio? Has he ever once been sincere or genuine?

  • exlibra on January 29, 2013 8:26 PM:

    For every wall, there is a tunnel...

    "osteflw Holmes". Actually, dear Watson, they're worried about the south/north flow of traffic, not the east/west one