Janet Napolitano: We shouldn't wait until the border is secure to legalize illegals

No worries. She says the border’s already “as secure as it’s ever been,” even though her department has given up trying to measure that. Marco Rubio recently claimed that 10 million new illegals would cross the border over the next decade if there’s no new guest-worker program in place. Maybe Napolitano could quantify border control that way. Are things secure enough now to ensure that only nine million of them would make it? Eight million?

“I think that once people really look at the whole system and how it works, relying on one thing as a so-called ‘trigger’ is not the way to go,” she said at a Christian Science Monitor event. “There needs to be some kind of certainty in the bill so that people can know when they can legalize and then when the pathway to citizenship, earned citizenship, will open up.”…

Napolitano also cautioned against another commonly-used phrase in immigration reform: getting to the “back of the line” behind those trying to immigrate legally. The Obama administration has used the phrase as well, and Napolitano didn’t argue on Tuesday that undocumented immigrants should be given a quicker path than would-be legal immigrants. Still, she pointed out that the “line” isn’t easy to define.

“There’s also talk about getting in the back of the line — that’s easier said than done,” Napolitano said. “Calculating what the line is at any given time, it moves. So those judgments will have to be made.”

HuffPo’s under the impression that the Gang of Eight has agreed that improved border security is a prerequisite to the amnestization part of comprehensive immigration reform. Is that right? My understanding is that they’ve agreed security won’t be a prerequisite to probationary legal status. That’ll be available after the bill is enacted, provided illegals pay back taxes, show they have no criminal recorded, etc. (Rand Paul’s plan would make security improvements a prerequisite for probationary legalization but Paul’s not driving this train.) The open question is whether tightening the border will be a prerequisite for the citizenship process that’ll follow the initial legalization. Rubio’s said all along he’ll walk away if it isn’t. Chuck Schumer, however, initially resisted that demand. Has he since caved? There’s been some murmuring lately from the Senate group that they’ve agreed on virtually everything except work visas, so I assume there’s been a settlement of whether the path to citizenship will or won’t be triggered by increased security. And I further assume that that settlement broke Rubio’s way or else he’d have quit the group by now. Right? After all, there’s no reason for Schumer to fight hard against the GOP’s “trigger” demand: Initial legalization is more important, and once it’s in place he can sit back and count on political pressure from amnesty advocates to push the GOP into approving a path to citizenship before 2016 no matter what’s going on with the border.

Which, I assume, is why Jay Carney refused yesterday to back Napolitano’s call to decouple legalization from border security. The White House isn’t going to let a golden opportunity at “earned amnesty” fall apart over security improvements when they know Republicans will cave on that later:

White House press secretary Jay Carney on Tuesday refused to say whether linking a pathway to citizenship to border security metrics would be a deal breaker for the White House, hours after Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said she did not think such a provision should be included in a final immigration deal.

“Progress is being made. It’s being made in the Senate which is where the Senate hoped it would be made. And we are very much monitoring that process and engaging in that process, but it’s not done yet and I don’t want to prejudge a bill that hasn’t been written,” Carney said…

“I think what she was saying, and the assessment we do agree with, is that there are a variety of metrics by which you can measure and we do measure progress on border security,” Carney said Tuesday.

If those metrics don’t exist now, rest assured that they will — and that they’ll point to an allegedly secure border — when it comes time in a year or two for the path to citizenship to be triggered. We’ll know the plan in greater detail this afternoon, though. Obama’s set to give interviews to Univision and Telemundo, where he’ll surely be asked about border security as a trigger and whether it’ll be a dealbreaker if the Senate bill insists upon it at the GOP’s behest. Prediction: He’ll say it’s not a dealbreaker, and furthermore he’ll say nothing that might potentially jeopardize the Senate negotiations. Remember, the “sabotage theory” holds that O wants this bill to collapse so that he can go running around next summer before the midterms screaming about how Republicans hate Latinos. I think that theory’s badly mistaken, but if I’m wrong, today’s a prime opportunity for him to do some sabotaging. Stay tuned.