Immigration bill drops overnight; Update: Sessions: “This bill is legalization first”; Update: The Rubio FAQ

posted at 9:21 am on April 17, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

It’s about half as long as some feared, and less than a third as long as ObamaCare. The new comprehensive immigration reform bill still comes in at 844 pages, and will be the center of curiosity in the Senate — at least after Harry Reid’s gun-control push stalls as expected today. The Hill reports that the Gang of Eight published the legislative language at 2 AM this morning:

The immigration reform bill a bipartisan group of senators released early Wednesday morning is more than 800 pages long.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), a member of the “Gang of Eight,” introduced the bill which runs to 844 pages early Wednesday morning at 2 a.m. …

Early reports suggested that the bill could run to as many as 1,500 pages.

“I’m for immigration reform, but we have 1,600 pages,” Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) said. “We’re going to read the details and try to make it acceptable to conservatives.”

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) a member of the bipartisan group, defended the bill in a statement Wednesday.

“This bill marks the beginning of an important debate, and I believe it will fix our broken system by securing our borders, improving interior enforcement, modernizing our legal immigration to help create jobs and protect American workers, and dealing with our undocumented population in a tough but humane way that is fair to those trying to come here the right way and linked to achieving several security triggers,” said Rubio.

The Gang of Eight want to get this addressed immediately, but they’d better not get their hopes up.  According to the Washington Post, opponents plan on slowing the bill down as a means of killing it:

Leading Capitol Hill opponents of the proposal to overhaul the nation’s immigration system are coalescing around a strategy to kill the bill by delaying the legislative process as long as possible, providing time to offer “poison pill” amendments aimed at breaking apart the fragile bipartisan group that developed the plan, according to lawmakers and legislative aides.

The tactics, used successfully by opponents of an immigration bill during a 2007 debate in the Senate, are part of an effort to exploit public fissures over core components of the comprehensive legislation introduced Tuesday by eight lawmakers who spent months negotiating the details. …

An open process “is essential to gaining public confidence in the content of the bill. We know it’s complicated,” said Sen. John Cornyn (Tex.), the top GOP member on the Senate Judiciary Committee’s immigration subcommittee. “I can’t see any reason to undermine confidence by trying to jam it through without adequate time for people to read it and to hear from their constituents.”

Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) called the pace of the legislative process — with Judiciary Committee hearings set for Friday and Monday — a “serious problem.”

I agree with that.  We need to resolve the chronic failures of border security and the broken visa system — about which the 9/11 Commission warned more than eight years ago now — and Democrats won’t address either without trading for normalization.  But before we proceed on the latter, we need to make sure that the final bill will actually resolve those security issues, and a rushed hearing and vote won’t make anyone feel confident in that outcome.  Rubio himself has publicly demanded that kind of process, and he should use his large influence on this group to make sure we get that opportunity.

Fox gives the broad-strokes outline, and frames that core issue:

In total, the bill creates a minimum 13-year path to citizenship for up to 11 million illegal immigrants, costing them each $2,000 in fines plus additional taxes. Applicants would have to meet other criteria as well in order to qualify.

It’s unclear whether the border security “triggers” will be enough to satisfy skeptical lawmakers. Conservatives say border security improvements should be verified before illegal immigrants can seek citizenship. Illegal immigrant advocates say their pathway should not be held up by that process.

Regardless, the plan dedicates billions to security efforts, including $3 billion to providing more border agents, customs agents and surveillance systems along the border; and $1.5 billion to building up border fencing.

It also includes language meant to assuage concerns that the mass legalization would send millions onto the federal welfare rolls. The bill claims to strengthen a federal law requiring applicants for legal status to prove they won’t become government dependents — some Republicans have claimed this law is rarely enforced.

If nothing else, the guessing games are over.  The actual legislative language now exists, and can be examined thoroughly.  Let’s put a lot of eyeballs on this and see what the Gang of Eight has proposed, and what needs to be improved.

Update: I just received this statement from the office of Senator Jeff Sessions:

“Already, we know that the bill’s sponsors have abandoned their core promise to the American people that enforcement would come first. This bill is legalization first, not enforcement first. The day the bill passes there will be effective amnesty for millions of illegal immigrants, with only the same promises we have heard before of enforcement to occur at some later date. That amnesty will then become official in a matter of months—once DHS merely submits a plan for border security in the future. That’s not a trigger—that’s the honor system. DHS develops the metrics and DHS decides when those metrics are met. Why should we trust DHS to follow through—after amnesty is granted—when this administration has aggressively defied those laws already in place?

In recent years interior enforcement has been significantly undermined. And yet our interior enforcement needs are almost totally neglected in the Gang’s proposal. Alarmingly, the bill leaves intact the single greatest obstacle to immigration reform: the Administration’s abuse of prosecutorial discretion to prevent the enforcement of federal law. It will also provide safe harbor to those who have committed a variety of offenses—ranging from identity theft, to multiple immigration violations, and even those with criminal records.

This bill opens up citizenship to recent arrivals and, remarkably, millions who overstayed their visas. If adopted, this bill would send a message to the world that if you can beat the system, you will be rewarded with citizenship. If adopted, this bill would send the following message to the world: if you get a U.S. visa and it expires, never leave—just stay put and evade detection. It even opens up citizenship to those who have been deported from the country.”

Sesssions has long been skeptical of this effort, and his opposition will be a big problem for the Gang of Eight’s efforts.  The amendment process could fix these issues, but can that be done while holding the coalition together?

Update: Marco Rubio has a FAQ page up on his official site.  He answers the concern about the border-security “triggers”:

Q: What are the security triggers?

This bill fixes our broken immigration system by securing the border with the toughest border security and enforcement measures in U.S. history, based on the following six security triggers:

1. DHS must create, fund and initiate a border security plan (within 6 months of bill’s enactment).

2. DHS must create, fund & initiate a border fence plan (within 6 months of bill’s enactment). 3. DHS must achieve 100 percent border awareness and at least 90 percent apprehension

rates in high-risk sectors of the U.S.-Mexico border (within 5 years of bill’s enactment). 4. If DHS fails to achieve #3, a Border Commission of border state officials and stakeholders is required to create & implement a plan to achieve 100 percent border awareness and at least

90 percent apprehension rates in high-risk sectors of the U.S.-Mexico border (within 10

years of bill’s enactment). 5. Universal E-verify must be implemented (within 10 years of bill’s enactment). 6. Visa exit system must be implemented at all international airports & seaports (within 10 years of bill’s enactment).

Q: Are the security triggers going to be effective?

 Even the media has dubbed these as the “toughest immigration enforcement measures in the history of the United States.” The White House opposed having any security triggers, but this bill requires several triggers that must all meet congressionally mandated performance standards before any undocumented immigrant can apply for temporary status and, eventually, permanent residence. These include establishing, funding, and implementing our border fence plan; achieving 100 percent operational awareness of border and at least a 90 percent apprehension rate or else a border commission steps in to meet those goals; requiring the use of E-Verify by all U.S. employers; and implementing an effective exit system at our airports and seaports. The security triggers are not left at the discretion of politicians with agendas. Real measurable results must be achieved, and politicians cannot override them.

 Q: Which comes first: the border security and enforcement measures, or the legalization for undocumented immigrants? In other words, what happens on day one?

 The most important thing that happens on day one is that the toughest border security and enforcement plan in American history will be the law of the land. Those who came here illegally after the December 31, 2011 cut-off debate will be deported. The enforcement begins by requiring background checks, proof of gainful employment, and payment of fines and taxes. However, before undocumented immigrants even get to this step, the border security and fencing plan to achieve 100 percent border awareness and at least a 90 percent apprehension rate must begin implementation. The fine we’ve established is $2,000, nearly three times what President Obama has pushed for. We set this fine to be tough but realistic, without discouraging people from coming forward.

 

Gang of Eight immigration reform plan

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