If, as Boehner claims, his caucus is reluctant to pass amnesty because they fear Obama can’t be trusted to enforce the new border security measures, there’s an obvious solution. In that case, though, why not go a step further? Let’s pass immigration reform now and then impeach Obama so that it can take effect immediately. The way things are headed in the midterms, we might even get a few Senate Democrats to vote yes.
Assume immigration reform is definitely in the cards sometime in the next three years. (Which it is.) Is there any argument for taking Schumer up on his offer? I.e. pass it now and then delay implementation a la ObamaCare? I can’t think of one. In theory, taking your medicine now would take the issue off the table during the presidential primary debates next year, reducing its capacity to split the party in 2015 at a moment when it should be unifying. But (a) the libertarians-versus-conservatives dynamic of the debates guarantees a bitter party split anyway and (b) immigration’s bound to come up no matter what as an easy way for “true conservative” candidates to distinguish themselves from the more RINO-y elite onstage. Admittedly, the split might be more bitter if the legislative process is playing out while the primary campaign is heating up, but the trade-off is that Republicans will be able to write a tougher immigration bill if they wait until next year, when they (hopefully) control both chambers of Congress. Better policy trumps more harmonious politics, no?
Schumer would actually prefer to delay implementation, I think. Whether a bill passes tomorrow and takes effect immediately or takes effect three years from now, Democrats will go on agitating for a faster, less onerous legalization process and an expedited special path to citizenship. But it’s marginally harder to do that politically for a bill that’s already in effect; there’ll be some public sympathy for the idea of giving the new status quo a fighting chance. Delay implementation until 2017, though, and the law can be “tweaked” in the interim to “improve” it before it takes effect and people begin to rely on the new rules. That’s one argument why, if the GOP passes something this year, they might do better to implement it immediately rather than wait. (If you’re inclined to delay because you think a newly elected Republican president might join with a Republican Congress in 2017 to repeal immigration reform if it hasn’t taken effect yet, you’re smoking something.) The other argument for immediate implementation is that Republicans might benefit in 2016 from a worst-case scenario where their bill’s new border-security measures fail epically in practice. If they beef up enforcement but the flow of illegal immigration continues at current levels anyway, I want voters to know that when they go to the polls in 2016. Follow Schumer’s plan by delaying the bill entirely and all voters will “know” is that Republicans still hate Latinos because they haven’t already legalized illegals.