Dems reassure supporters: The border-enforcement stuff in the new immigration plan is just a talking point for the GOP

Glorious candor from lefty Greg Sargent. Granted, this message is aimed at liberals by liberals in hopes of selling them on an immigration bill they won’t completely like — damn it, why can’t we have even weaker borders?? — but it has the virtue of being true. Remember, the big security concession in the new bipartisan bill is a blue-ribbon commission made up of southwestern governors, attorneys general, and “community leaders” who’ll collectively decide when the border is secure enough so that we can proceed to the citizenship phase of the project. This is, in other words, supposed to satisfy immigration hawks who prefer the “enforcement first” approach. A good-faith effort by Democrats to meet the right in the middle? No, not really:

[I]f this “commission” doesn’t ever decide the border is secure, couldn’t that result in 11 million people being stranded in second-class legal limbo?

That’s a legitimate worry, according to Frank Sharry, the executive director of America’s Voice, a group advocating for immigration reform. But he tells me that on a conference call yesterday, Democratic Senators reassured immigration advocates that this commission won’t be constructed in a way that will hold up the process for too long.

As Sharry put it, Democrats realize that they can’t “allow the commission to have a real veto” over setting in motion the path to citizenship. He noted that Dems see the commission as “something that gives the Republicans a talking point” to claim they are prioritizing tough enforcement, giving themselves cover to back a process that “won’t stop people from getting citizenship.” However, Sharry added: “The details of this are going to matter hugely, and we’ll have to fight like hell on the individual provisions.”

That said, Sharry concluded: “This is a left of center framework.”

Padding the ranks of Democratic voters was, is, and always will be the goal of this project for the left, which is why border enforcement is nothing more than a rhetorical box to be checked on the path towards citizenship. Mickey Kaus looks at the fine print:

If you read closely, you learn that illegal immigrants will actually be legalized immediately–given “probationary legal status,” allowing them to “live and work legally in thee United States” (according to Politico). The only thing that’s delayed, pending “stricter border enforcement,” is the opening of a “path to citizenship.” As if, once legalized, the 11 million are going to be unlegalized if enforcement measures are implemented with less than 100% efficacy.

The penalty for failing to meet the enforcement “trigger,” in other words, is both insufficient and fake. Insufficient because the undocumented will already have gotten the most important thing–the ability to live and work here legally (permanently, if we’re being realistic about it). Fake because it’s silly to think these 11M will be held indefinitely in non-citizen limbo if the implementation of enforcement fails, as it did in the last big immigration reform in 1986.

Once they’ve passed the bill, Republicans in Congress will have to choose between hiding behind the commission’s “enforcement” fig leaf as proof that border security’s been tightened and simply forgetting about it and backing a Democratic path to citizenship irrespective of border conditions. If the point of this is to build goodwill with Latino voters, it makes no sense whatsoever for the GOP to go all in on comprehensive reform now and then try to block amnesty later. Democrats will destroy them over it and any bit of goodwill will evaporate. Once you’ve committed to immigration concessions as a form of “goodwill,” you’d better be prepared to concede at every point of this legislative journey, now and in the future. More from Conn Carroll:

Just take the border commission. Who do you think is most likely to say the border is already secure enough to grant citizenship to those legalized by this plan? That’s right, Democrats. And who do you think is least likely to say the border is secure? That’s right, Republicans. Now guess which party will get blamed, and suffer politically, when the border is not declared “secure” regardless of the facts on the ground? Yup, Republicans. And while Republicans refuse to sign off on border security, legalized immigrants will be denied access to Obamacare subsidies or Medicaid expansion. Which party do you think they will blame for denying them health care?

The new Senate immigration plan not only grants expedited citizenship to a brand new set of illegal immigrants (agricultural workers) but it creates a brand new infinite amnesty by creating a path to citizenship for “temporary” guest workers as well. And it accomplishes all this while making it even more clear that Republicans are the mean bad guys of border enforcement.

And of course, even if Republicans acquiesce to all major Democratic demands and McConnell/Boehner line up enough votes in the Senate/House to pass the bill with bipartisan support, there’s still this problem via liberal Chris Bowers:

Hard to believe he’s not right about a majority of House Republicans voting no (remember, many come from deep red districts and fear a primary challenge more than the general election), in which case Obama gets the best of both worlds — the bill passes and Democrats nuke the GOP as still being the party of immigration obstruction. If we’re going to cave in the interest of building goodwill with Latino voters, then let’s really do it. A unanimous Republican vote for a bad Democratic bill makes far more sense politically according to the goodwill logic than the party dividing over a bill that’s likely going to pass anyway. But then, this brings us back to whether immigration is the key to goodwill in the first place:

A Republican economic agenda aimed squarely at the middle class would, I suspect, win more Latino votes than immigration gimmicks would, but if the new reform bill is the entry point for goodwill, then at least cave en masse. You’re not going to be able to squeeze Democrats for rigorous enforcement mechanisms; Democrats are in no mood to concede after November’s big win and they know full well that Republicans are sufficiently jittery about the Latino vote that even a weak bill will pass with some GOP support. There’s no truly bad outcome for them here: Either the bill passes unanimously, it passes with a handful of Republican votes and the rest of the GOP gets attacked for opposing reform, or the bill is blocked by Republicans and Democrats then run on a 2014 “the GOP hasn’t learned anything” platform. Which of those three is the best outcome? I’m asking honestly. I don’t know.