A marginalized group emerged from the shadows today to assert that they indeed have a voice, and a future, in American society. We speak, of course, of members of Congress. After years of scurrying for political cover, a brave handful of senators held a daylight, weekday news conference in Washington to present — in writing — a surprisingly detailed outline for overhauling the nation’s immigration laws…

Trey Gowdy, a second-term Republican who is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee’s immigration subcommittee, is known as a hawk on illegal immigration. Yet he told a newspaper in his home state of South Carolina that he wants a system that reflects “the humanity that I think defines us as a people, and the respect for the rule of law that defines us as a republic.” If that’s the standard Congress maintains for immigration reform, millions will be on a path to citizenship, and the nation will be on the high road to success.

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Advocates expect to lose at least five Democrats in the Senate, which means they will need upwards of a dozen Republicans to vote for the legislation. That’s where Rubio and other tea party favorites like Sen. Mike Lee of Utah will come into play. Rubio and Lee are newcomers to an old discussion among Republican veterans like McCain and Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. Newly elected Sen. Jeff Flake of Arizona will be a key Republican player as well…

Boehner has to be careful. He only has so many chances to put incendiary legislation on the floor before his caucus stages an all-out revolt. To appease them, he will probably offer one or two high-profile House votes, where Democrats will protest like crazy, on enforcement-only immigration legislation. That gets the dealmakers to the next step, a conference committee where anything can happen. As Kennedy was fond of saying, “We’ll fix it in conference.”

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“As I’ve stated before, elections, elections,” said McCain, who along with seven colleagues spoke out at a Monday afternoon Capitol Hill press conference about a set of bipartisan principles for reform they had released a day earlier.

“The Republican Party is losing the support of our Hispanic citizens, and we realize there are many issues in which we think we are in agreement with our Hispanic citizens, but this is a pre-eminent issue for those citizens,” said McCain, his party’s standard-bearer in the 2008 presidential election.

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Why won’t this new reform be a repeat of the 1986 reform, when the amnesty provisions were implemented but the enforcement half was blocked by ACLU-style lawsuits and bureaucratic weakness? The result was a broken border and the approximately 11 million new unauthorized immigrants we’re talking about giving amnesty to today. (If it wouldn’t bother you if an Obama amnesty attracted millions of new unauthorized immigrants, then let’s be open about that.)…

Are we really that good at assimilating? Yes, American culture is powerful. But now there is an entrenched lobby for bilingual education, and identity politics curricula that teach young people they’re right to resist assimilation. Formal and informal race preferences reward Americans for maintaining separate ethnic identies. And then there’s Univision, which would go out of business if too many people spoke the common language.

Isn’t Mexico special? Other immigrants had to cross oceans and cut ties to get here–and many still do. But half of our new unauthorized immigrants come from a single country a day’s drive away–a nation with a not-implausible claim to much of our Southwestern territory. The “border” may mean something else to them than it does to us, or to other immigrants. Everywhere else in the world this is a recipe for turmoil. Why are we immune?

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As the Hispanic electorate becomes less Cuban, more Mexican and Central American, it becomes less susceptible to GOP cultural themes. The claim that Hispanic voters are “natural Republicans” is based on nothing but wishful thinking, fortified by ignorance.

Economically struggling Hispanics need and want more government than the GOP will offer them, and the 11 million illegals soon to embark on their “path to citizenship” will need and want even more: Earned Income Tax Credits, Medicaid, Section 8 housing, food stamps, and so on. Even into the fourth generation after joining the American workforce, Mexican-Americans remain strikingly less likely to finish college than Anglo-Americans.

It’s not true for everyone, of course, but it’s true for enough to ensure that Democrats will win the larger share of the Hispanic vote for a long time to come.

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By definition, creating a path to citizenship turns illegal aliens into potential voters, and any serious analysis of Hispanic opinion tells you that those new voters’ interests and beliefs will tend to align with the Democratic Party. No, not necessarily forever, but across the next few decades of American politics there is simply no plausible case that gratitude to Marco Rubio and Jeff Flake will convert a liberal-leaning voting bloc into a true swing constituency, let alone a Republican-tilting demographic. Which makes it very, very easy to imagine a future where immigration reform helps Republicans win a slightly higher percentage of the Hispanic vote, but costs them many more votes in absolute terms by accelerating the ongoing demographic shifts in the electorate. (And that’s without getting into the incentives that such a deal would create for future migration, or its disillusioning impact on the working class white voters the G.O.P. still can’t win without …)

Presumably these costs would be reduced if the reform’s path to citizenship were long and arduous enough, with more waiting and more hurdles than a straightforward amnesty. But then the immediate political benefits to Republicans become much more uncertain as well, since they would still be playing the “bad cop” role in a policy debate that would no doubt extend for many years after the initial bill were passed. (The ads write themselves: “Republican candidate X says that he supports immigration reform, but he’s voted again and again to keep hardworking immigrants in legal limbo, deny their children benefits, etc. …”)

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[O]pen-borders advocacy groups are signaling that they will fight any enforcement measures that are enacted into law. One activist writes at the Huffington Post that any amnesty package should terminate a program that prosecutes border infiltrators (it’s a misdemeanor on the first offense, a felony afterward). You would think they’d be willing to support such a program after an amnesty and after the Senate outline’s provision for effectively unlimited immigration go into effect. But apparently they understand better than clueless Republican pols that an amnesty bill will serve as a magnet for more illegal immigration because the enforcement promises are fake, and they want to make sure that flow is not impeded.

Also, the ACLU has made clear that it will wage a legal jihad against the provision mandating the screening of all new hires with the E-Verify system. E-Verify is the main enforcement bait the open-borders crowd holds out to attract naïve conservatives to back amnesty (though the Senate outline was careful not to mention E-Verify specifically, because Schumer wants to replace it with something “better,” a process which wouldn’t be completed until years after all the current illegals are legalized — if ever). Preventing its full implementation is key to crippling future enforcement and ensuring that illegal immigration continues.

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U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) issued the following statement regarding today’s bipartisan immigration reform proposal:

I appreciate the good work that senators in both parties have put into trying to fix our broken immigration system. There are some good elements in this proposal, especially increasing the resources and manpower to secure our border and also improving and streamlining legal immigration. However, I have deep concerns with the proposed path to citizenship. To allow those who came here illegally to be placed on such a path is both inconsistent with rule of law and profoundly unfair to the millions of legal immigrants who waited years, if not decades, to come to America legally.

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Today, Senator Mike Lee made the following statement with regard to the Statement of Principles on immigration reform released by the Group of Eight:…

I remain greatly supportive of what the group aims to accomplish and will continue to work with my colleagues to solve many of the challenges this important issue presents. Although I am encouraged by the process and continue to support efforts to make real progress on immigration reform, I am not able to sign the Statement of Principles released today.

These guidelines contemplate a policy that will grant special benefits to illegal immigrants based on their unlawful presence in the country. Reforms to our complex and dysfunctional immigration system should not in any way favor those who came here illegally over the millions of applicants who seek to come here lawfully.

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A House conservative who has taken a leading role in the lower chamber’s discussions on immigration, Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho), said the ideas released Monday were “good principles” that were similar to those that members of both parties in the House were discussing.

But he said the group’s proposal for a path to citizenship stuck out as a concern and would be “tough” to accept in the House.

“I think that’s going to be one of the sticking points between the House and the Senate,” Labrador said. “We have to be careful about rewarding people for illegal activity with citizenship.”…

Labrador said he and other conservatives are looking for signs that President Obama wants a “policy victory” on immigration and not simply a “political victory” that comes from blaming Republicans for a failure to pass legislation.

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Which brings us back to Mr. Obama. The President will lay out his own reform principles Tuesday, but the question is whether he wants an achievement or a political issue. If he wants a genuine reform, the Senate framework shows how much Republicans have already moved his way. GOP leaders can read the 2012 exit polls, and thanks to the persuasion of Mr. Rubio, Jeb Bush and a few others, more conservatives are now more amenable to reform.

Yet neither Mr. Obama nor his White House have reached out to Mr. Rubio, and many Democrats want to use the immigration issue to drive turnout in election after election. Their goal is to have a legislative dance and then blame Republicans for killing reform sometime in 2014.

If that is Mr. Obama’s real goal, he’ll demand too much—by gutting the guest-worker program again or complicating it with too much bureaucracy, or by insisting on a quick and easy path to citizenship for illegals. Mr. Obama will have to decide if he wants a legacy of reform, or more partisanship.

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One of the things to look for is whether Obama has the good sense to lead from behind and not claim this plan as his own crusade. That is the surest way to piss off Congress, especially congressional Republicans, just as it is children and bosses. Letting them come up with the plan and showing a willingness to sign off on it would probably be the best bet. If it’s seen as Obama’s plan, they’ll reflexively oppose it. If it’s Marco Rubio’s plan, even if it bears little difference from Obama’s, Republicans—who want Hispanics’ love even more than a tax cut—will embrace it…

Getting to the finish line on immigration won’t be easy despite the new receptivity. There are policy questions: Will the E-Verify system be widely demanded or not? What’s the route to green cards? There are political ones: Can the tea party back off its tough stand on immigration? Can labor and Hispanic groups accept tougher documentation standards? There’s a reason we haven’t had a big immigration bill in more than a generation. Knowing when to have a light touch will require the president to be less assertive than he was in his inaugural address.

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“If we do succeed, and I think we will, it will be a testimonial to Ted Kennedy’s effort years ago that laid the groundwork for this agreement,” said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a member of the bipartisan group of senators that on Monday backed a set of principles for comprehensive immigration reform.

“You will find that this agreement has very little difference from that of the legislation that was led by Sen. Kennedy some years ago.”

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“I think it’s important before we let the moment pass to acknowledge that the progress we’re seeing embodied in the priniciples put forward by this bipartisan group is happening for a reason: I think it’s happening because consensus is developing in the country, a bipartisan consensus, and it’s happening because the president has demonstrated significant leadership on this issue,” Carney said.

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Via Greg Hengler.