The Piecemeal Movement
Democrats are now open to a more gradual approach to immigration, but risks remain.

Sen. Marco Rubio


Andrew Stiles

Senator Marco Rubio (R., Fla.) isn’t the only member of the Gang of Eight talking about a piecemeal approach to immigration reform, which appears to be the preference of House Republicans.

Even Democrats who once insisted that anything less than a large, comprehensive bill was a nonstarter are beginning show signs of flexibility. “I don’t like that approach but it may be the only approach,” Senator Dick Durbin (D., Ill.), referring to the idea of multiple bills, told Politico on Wednesday.

Earlier this week, Rubio shocked many observers by appearing to disavow the Gang of Eight bill, calling for a step-by-step approach in the House and even coming out against the procedural maneuvering that could lead to a conference committee, which most conservatives strongly oppose.

Although Rubio’s announcement was politically significant and garnered a lot of attention, it may not have much impact on the immigration-reform debate. Many supporters of the Gang of Eight bill think it won’t.

So does Senator Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.), who said back in August that he would not oppose a step-by-step approach in the House, which would likely involve passing a series of individual bills focusing on issues such as border security, interior enforcement, guest-worker visas, and, potentially, a pathway to citizenship for some illegal immigrants.

“We would much prefer a big comprehensive bill, but any way that the House can get there is okay by us,” Schumer told CNN, noting that the House Judiciary Committee had already approved a number of bills that are “very similar” to corresponding provisions in the Gang of Eight legislation.

Even President Obama has said he was open to a piecemeal approach on immigration reform, telling Telemundo in September, “I’m less concerned about process, I’m more interested in making sure it gets done.”

The catch: Schumer and Obama both insist that any final product passed by both houses must include a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants, a controversial provision that many House Republicans oppose — at the very least, they would prefer that border-security and enforcement legislation be signed into law before legal status is granted to any illegal immigrants.


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