Mark, you write:
What Barbour seems to be saying is that, even though the illegal population would be legalized immediately, before enforcement targets are met, the prospect of upgrading them to full green-card status ten years later would provide enough incentive for the political class to ensure that the enforcement promises are carried out. This would supposedly avoid the problem he correctly identified during the public part of the program, when he said, “It’s clearly understandable that this time the American people want to have some certainty that we’re going to have the border secure and do better enforcing visas.”
This is, of course, absurd. The “provisional” legalization would be irreversible and the only political pressure that would be generated would be to upgrade them to green-card status (and eventual citizenship) regardless of the state of enforcement, because not to do so would perpetuate an evil, second-class, Jim Crow regime imposed by the Rethuglicans on the hapless campesinos (you can write the DNC ad copy in your sleep).
Indeed. And I suspect that, when this inevitably happens, one will be able to borrow from contemporary discussions of the politics of immigration pretty much verbatim. Rather than millions of formerly illegal immigrants’ being stuck in purgatory spurring furious action to secure the border, I rather imagine that the talk will immediately turn to the “GOP’s Latino problem” and that it will be asserted sagely that this is a “gateway issue.” Without agreeing to upgrade the statuses regardless of whether or not the border is secure, the talking heads will say, immigrants — and Hispanics in general — will never “listen to the Republican party’s message.” Why? Because they will assume that the Republican party is “hostile” to them and does not want them to become citizens.
This idea the Democratic party will carefully cultivate, arguing that “this is not who we are.” Jose Antonio Vargas will write a TIME cover story called, “What is a citizen?” And all the while, the great number crunchers of the souless bureaucratic Left will run interference, assuring us that the border actually is secure after all. We just need a “one-time upgrade,” they will say.
Don’t think that this is part of the plan? Then I have a border fence to sell you . . .