It is laughable that what hard-right conservatives have pined for over the years — massive border build-up, robust surveillance and ample walling — has suddenly become lard, pork, unnecessary and ill-conceived. Were they wrong for complaining about the absence of all this or wrong for rejecting what they wanted?
In fact, the best border security measures are legal immigration and e-Verify, both of which are in the bill, as Rubio explains in the conservative outlet Human Events:
The Republican Border Surge Plan was developed with input from border patrol officials, border state officials, and security experts. It stipulates that no illegal immigrant can even apply to become a legal permanent resident of the U.S. until at least ten years have elapsed and until five security triggers are achieved.These triggers include the completion of at least 700 miles of secure pedestrian fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border, doubling the number of border patrol agents with 20,000 new border patrol agents, and providing all nine sectors of the southern border with the state of the art technology and resources our border patrol agents need to secure the border, including unarmed drones, camera systems, ground sensors and radars, among other resources. To eliminate the job magnet that attracts most illegal immigrants to the U.S., E-Verify must be completely implemented and mandatory for all U.S. businesses. And to crack down on foreigners who overstay their visas – which accounts for 40 percent of today’s illegal immigrant population – an entry-exit system must be completely implemented.
Though the bill is likely to go through the Senate, the House, nearly everyone agrees, is a different story. Immigration reform advocates have been asking how is this going to work. Reps. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) and Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) may be dogged in their pursuit of a deal but the chamber has many more anti-immigrant voices than does the Senate.
There are a few possibilities: 1.) The speaker of the House brings a bill without GOP majority support to the floor; 2.) The House passes an enforcement only bill (ironically with all the goodies Corker-Hoeven put in); 3.) The House puts in a “hard trigger”; or 4.) The House does nothing. Let’s take each in order.
House Speaker John Boehner (Ohio) has said he won’t bring a bill without majority support in his conference to the floor. That’s believable if you think he doesn’t care about the speakership and is fine unleashing a right-wing mutiny in the House that will have disastrous outcomes in other areas (e.g. a government shutdown).
An enforcement-only bill, or package of bills, is the most likely option. Conservatives may not want to be asked why they favored no improvement in immigration law, a political dilemma avoided only if they vote for something better than the current system of nonenforcement, defacto amnesty and H1-B visa shortages. It would be amusing to see if the House Republicans would vote for Corker-Hoeven as a stand-alone measure. At least that would be an honest of their border security concern, since it includes every gizmo and tactic they’ve demanded to secure the border and fix visa overstays. It would also keep the reform ball in play, since the next step would be a conference committee in which some real negotiation might take place.
As for a hard trigger, the entire concept has become nonsensical since all the things needed to accomplish border security will have to be implemented, and we’ll have to wait ten years until green card eligibility can be launched. The only way a hard trigger would be an improvement over the Corker-Hoeven plan is if all the seal-the-border stuff conservatives have been begging for is actually useless and illegal immigration returns to 1990s levels. (Falling birthrates and economic forces make that highly unlikely.)
Doing nothing constructive is tempting for many House Republican who, when they do “legislate,” have become infamous for symbolic, meaningless and illogical (sometimes all three!) votes. Not doing anything prevents them from revealing what they’d actually like to do on border control. Since many have now convinced themselves the current system (which they railed against in how many elections?) is worse than a whole lot of border security, visas for valuable high tech workers and an arduous path to green card status, they might not be concerned about standing pat.
There might be some clever solutions, but you can be sure that whatever solution is offered, the anti-immigration reform caucus will refuse to proceed. Ironically the House Republicans will wind up exactly where they feared — getting blamed for the failure of immigration reform. That charge, if the anti-reform House R’s continue their antics, will have the advantage of being true.
In cases like this politics will take its course. Maybe presented with an actual bill and the potential for utter failure to fix our immigration system some votes will shake loose on the GOP side. There are after all ample economic reasons to vote for it.
Alternatively, If R’s in the House do prevent passable immigration reform from coming to a vote, politicians in 2014 and/or 2016 can ask the voters to unjam it (either by electing an anti-reform president and Congress or pro-reform officials). Activists and donors can weigh in. Hey, if both houses change control we should have a passable bill lickety-split. And goodness knows how Republicans will react if they lose a third presidential election.