A bipartisan group of senators has agreed on an immigration blueprint, which, we're told, will absolutely offer a path to citizenship for undocumented residents.
Or will it? As The Washington Post informed us a couple of days ago, while the plan was being cooked up, Senator Marco Rubio's "back of the line" proposal is a bit of a problem:
Rubio has said he thinks immigrants who came to the country illegally should be able to earn a work permit but should be required to seek citizenship through existing avenues after those who have come here legally.I think, under the proposal, it would be hard even to get to the point where anyone could be in the queue for citizenship, even theoretically:
Many Democrats and immigration advocates fear Rubio's approach would result in wait-times stretching for decades, creating a class of permanent legal residents for whom the benefits of citizenship appear unattainable.
Under the senators' plan, most illegal immigrants would be able to apply to become permanent residents -- a crucial first step toward citizenship -- but only after certain border enforcement measures had been accomplished.Who's going to be on that commission? The governor of Texas? The governor of Arizona? Maybe in the distant future Texas will go purple, but for now it's hard to imagine that the commission won't be full of far-right, build-a-moat grandstanders who'll never, ever say we've done enough to secure the borders (especially when a Democrat is president). As The Wall Street Journal notes:
Among the plan's new proposals is the creation of a commission of governors, law enforcement officials and community leaders from border states that would assess when border security measures had been completed.
It wasn't clear how it would be determined that those provisions had been met. A Rubio aide said Mr. Rubio would like to see "operational control of the border," a standard some advocates fear would be both hard to define and never be met.****
I don't know if any of this can get past the GOP crazies in the House and the talk-radio rubes in the Republican base. Atrios's headline is "Still Think Lucy Holds On To The Football," the implication being that Democrats are being lulled again into thinking that Republicans will play fair -- but if this fails, aren't Republican leaders, who really seem to want more Hispanic votes in the future, also going to be tripped up?
If I had to bet, I'd assume that nothing passes -- that the House GOP will make the bill even tougher on immigrants, possibly even stripping out any path to citizenship, and it will still be deemed "amnesty" by most of them, while going too far to the right even for willing-to-compromise Democrats. Then the apparently pro-reform Republicans, Graham and McCain and Rubio and Boehner and the rest, can argue that Republicans really, really wanted reform, but Democrats insisted on "amnesty." And those Republicans will get brownie points for trying, at least with the mainstream press (Hispanics won't be fooled), while the crazy back-benchers will get credit with their base for stopping The Invasion Of America. And Rubio will be set up to run in 2016 as the guy who can really get this done.
I don't know if that will work -- the GOP opposition (in the House, in the right-wing media, and among the rubes) could be so rabid that no one will be fooled. But I think it will all unfold more or less that way.
UPDATE: Greg Sargent said a couple of hours ago that the Gang of 8's immigration framework doesn't actually require the commission's OK before the citizenship process starts -- but subsequently Sargent has noted that Marco Rubio wants the commission to have the power to block the start of the process, while Gang of 8 Democrats disagree. So already we have a bone of contention.