As Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) previewed Wednesday night on Sean Hannity’s show on Fox News, the border amendment that he and other pro-immigration reform Republicans hope will break the log jam is about to be revealed:
The co-sponsors of the effort, Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) and Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.), have been working with Rubio and other members of the Gang of Eight. The amendment is expected to increase border security personnel. An adviser to a pro-immigration reform senator tells me that the amendment will “be a blockbuster, basically doubling Border Patrol, complet[ing] the southern fence.”
The best sign yet is that Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has stopped jabbering in public. The Hill quotes him as saying, “I’m not talking about any specifics.”
Rubio’s office has worked with Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.), whose effort to beef up security, was demagogued by Schumer and others, but in recent days has turned attention to the Corker-Hoeven effort, which is expected to clarify that at least some of the enhanced security measures must be in place before green card status becomes available to those who are illegally here and otherwise qualify (e.g. paying back taxes and a fine).
Not involved in the negotiations is Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who, as his style, came up with his own quirky amendment (requiring a congressional vote to confirm border security) that did not have significant support from either side. (It failed 61 to 37). An adviser close to the Gang of Eight shrugged, telling me that “defeat of [the] Paul amendment just means he will be voting no, which isn’t a surprise.” It may, however, come as a surprise to those Silicon Valley execs Paul met with in California who thought he was sincere in trying to devise an immigration plan. Unlike his libertarian fans, steely-eyed donors and business leaders know when they’ve been snowed. They will no doubt tuck that information away when he comes seeking support in 2016. (Likewise, his rhetoric about expanding the base of the GOP will be dealt a blow if in fact he winds up voting no.)
The good news for lawmakers of both parties is that the provisions in the Gang of Eight bill are overwhelmingly popular with both Democrats and Republicans. Gallup reports: “In addition to the pathway for citizenship, increased border security wins broad public support, as do a proposal that would allow engineers and scientists who earn graduate degrees in the U.S. to remain in the country and work, and legislation that would require business owners to check the immigration status of any employee they hire.” For example, 86 percent of both Democrats and Republicans favor allowing those here illegally to become citizens after a long waiting period if they pass a background check, pay a fine and taxes and learn English. That is precisely what the bill would do.
The irony on border security is that we don’t have much of a border security problem. We have a net outflow of immigrants. As the Wall Street Journal editorial board notes:
[T]he U.S.-Mexico border is more secure today than it has been in decades. According to Border Patrol statistics, illegal entries are at a 40-year low. Apprehensions of illegal entrants exceeded 1.1 million in 2005, but in both 2011 and 2012 the number was below 365,000.
According to a study by the Government Accountability Office, the number of illegal immigrants who escaped capture at the nine major crossing points from San Diego to El Paso fell an astonishing 86% between 2006 and 2011. All the talk-show shouting about America under siege from immigrants streaming across the Rio Grande is fiction.
But this is about politics, not about facts. The bill won’t go anywhere unless the border issue is addressed. Dems and R’s know it.
Some Republicans remain skeptical that the Democrats will play ball. On senior adviser not directly involved in the Gang of Eight discussions e-mails me, arguing that “Dems will allow no significant changes, certainly not anything that will increase the vote total, and that as a result, it will pass narrowly–and then sit on a shelf. They don’t want to make law, they just want to pass a bill.” That may still be the case, but we will find out when the amendment is revealed and Schumer and other Dems react to the one chance to do something meaningful in President Obama’s second term.