Illinois Republican Peter Roskam asks below whether Democrats actually want to pass an immigration bill, “or do they want to keep the issue for 2014?” This has become a common refrain, most notably by Senator Cruz; i.e., that the White House and congressional Democrats are making obviously unrealistic demands regarding the content of an amnesty bill specifically to provoke Republican objections, thus creating a campaign theme for 2014.
I don’t think that’s correct. Using the failure of an amnesty bill for political purposes is clearly the Left’s plan B, but they really do want an amnesty bill to pass. And I say an “amnesty bill” not for some polemical purpose but because that’s the point of the whole exercise. “Immigration reform” means, first and foremost, legalizing as much of the illegal population as possible; everything else in the Schumer-Rubio bill, or any other legislation they’d support, is secondary. If enforcement measures are needed to provide political cover for pro-amnesty Republicans, then put in 20,000 extra Border Patrol agents — or a million or a billion, armed with drones and photon torpedoes — whatever it takes, however absurd and unrealistic, to pull the amnesty over the finish line (since none of the enforcement stuff is going to happen anyway). If massive expansion of indentured-servitude programs for foreign workers is what it takes to get corporate lobbyists to push for the amnesty, then give them whatever they want, smashing the wages and opportunities of American blue-collar workers (who are probably racists anyway). If a long, drawn-out period of “provisional” status is needed to dupe conservatives into thinking the former illegals are undergoing some kind of hardship before entering the voting booth, then create lots of complicated hoops to jump through (they’ll be modified in a couple of years anyway).
In fact, even the irreducible demand of a “path to citizenship” (as opposed to a permanent work-visa status not leading to a green card) is negotiable. Schumer, for instance, has said: “Any attempt to say in the House that it will not have a path to citizenship will be a non-starter. I say that unequivocally, it will not pass the Senate. I don’t think it’ll get a Democratic vote.”
If, as some have suggested, the House were to pass an amnesty that did not lead to citizenship, Schumer and Obama would rail against it until the last minute, then give in. Because legalization is irreversible; any concessions made to Republicans to get that legalization are negotiable. Remember, once the 1986 amnesty was well underway, the open-borders side launched the effort to roll back the other other half of the “grand bargain” (the ban on hiring illegals). That attempt to welsh on the deal was led by, among others, Cecilia Munoz (now the chief White House immigration strategist) and Orrin Hatch (who’s announced that he’ll vote for this latest amnesty).
The Democrats want an amnesty bill at any cost. There’s no provision House Republicans could insert that would serve as a poison pill. The only way forward is, as Bill Kristol has written, “No Capitulation, No ‘Comprehensive’ Bill, No Conference.”