Have Democrats agreed to make border security a prerequisite for a path to citizenship?

You tell me. Listen below to Schumer on yesterday’s “Meet the Press” describing the process agreed on by the Gang of Eight. First comes probationary legal status, which has always been the Democratic prize. Then comes border security, replete with certain “metrics” to quantify improvement. Then comes the path to citizenship. He doesn’t explicitly say that the citizenship process won’t begin unless and until the goal in each of those metrics is reached (although he does use the words “after that happens” about border security), but he’s also not giving you the pure amnesty-shill line in which border security and citizenship operate concurrently and independently of each other. I’ve never understood why, if they’re getting probationary legalization right off the bat, Democrats would put up a fuss over Rubio’s demand that border security serve as a “trigger” for the citizenship process. Once you’ve got legalization, you’ll get citizenship sooner rather than later. Better that they cave on the “trigger” to give Rubio some political cover to keep pushing this bill to conservatives than make a stink that ends up further spooking border hawks. For now, just bookmark this clip for easy reference later this week or next when we finally get to see the details of the new bill. It’ll be fun to compare the two just to see how weaselly Schumer ended up being in his language here.

Quick question from the LA Times, by the way. If the GOP’s keen to win over Latinos by caving on principles they’ve held in the recent past, why not cave on ObamaCare too? It’s at least as important as immigration to the voters they’re trying to woo:

Latinos, who have the lowest rates of health coverage in the country, are among the strongest backers of President Obama’s healthcare law. In a recent national poll, supporters outnumbered detractors by more than 2 to 1. Latinos also overwhelmingly see guaranteeing healthcare as a core government responsibility, surveys show…

“This is going to hurt Republicans,” said Matt Barreto, cofounder of Latino Decisions, a nonpartisan national polling firm. “When Republicans keep saying they will repeal the health law, Latinos hear the party is going to take away their healthcare.”…

Surveys indicate that close to 30% of Latino citizens and legal permanent residents lack health insurance. By comparison, just 11% of white and 17% of black Americans are uninsured, according to the latest data from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention…

Nearly half of Latinos in a recent Pew Research Center poll said they trusted the federal government to do the right thing “always” or “most of the time.” Just 20% of white respondents felt that way. And two-thirds of Latinos believed the federal government should ensure that everyone has access to health insurance, a 2012 Latino Decisions survey found.

Politico has a pair of stories up today about the emerging paths to citizenship in Congress, one in the House and the other in the soon-to-be-revealed Gang of Eight bill. The House GOP apparently wants a citizenship process that takes roughly 20 years; the Gang of Eight allegedly will require thousands of dollars in fines to be paid by illegals before they can qualify (versus just $500 proposed by the White House). Assuming this thing passes, the story of the next two years on immigration will be Republicans struggling to hold the line on whatever final numbers end up in the bill while Democrats use 2016 political pressure to try to get them to lower the requirements for citizenship. (After all, if the point is to take illegals out of limbo, why stick them in a citizenship process they can’t afford? The argument will quickly move towards taking them out of that legal limbo too.) The great risk for the GOP in framing its immigration moderation explicitly as a way to win Latino voters is that grassroots conservatives will expect some electoral bang for their buck fairly soon. That’s not the way most Republicans are selling this — typically you hear them say that winning over Latinos is a long process, with immigration reform a first necessary step — but GOP border hawks will want to see at least some improvement upon Romney’s share of the Latino vote three years from now. And Republican pols surely know it. That’s why they have an incentive to cave, if not now then later, on citizenship requirements. The closer we get to 2016, the more pressure they’ll face to show some improvement with Latinos, which in turn will encourage further concessions if their polling among that group hasn’t changed much. And they’ll make those concessions knowing that the base will forgive them in the interest of winning back the White House. But if they don’t win, lots of bitterness to come.

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