Rubio: Let's face it, my immigration bill probably can't pass the House

Raul Labrador’s been saying this for months, that any bill with a “special” path to citizenship for illegals is DOA in the House, but I’m still surprised to hear Rubio say it. You don’t think the GOP leadership can find 30 or so panicky Republican reps to vote with a unified Democratic caucus in the House to rubber-stamp the Gang of Eight bill, if only in the name of “getting immigration off the table” and preventing the media from writing any more pieces like this? If he’s pessimistic about its chances, he must have reason to believe that Boehner won’t violate the Hastert Rule to try to pass this thing. Finally, some good news for border hawks.

“The bill that’s in place right now probably can’t pass the House,” Rubio told Mike Gallagher, a nationally syndicated talk show host. “It will have to be adjusted, because people are very suspicious about the willingness of the government to enforce the laws now.”

He continued: “That is a very legitimate suspicion, it’s one that I share, and if there’s anything we can do to make [the bill] even tighter … that’s exactly what we should be working on.”

The Florida Republican called the Gang of Eight bill a “starting point” and urged opponents to proposes changes to the bill, not try to kill it altogether.

Matt Lewis also picked up on Rubio’s pleading to “fix” the bill, not abandon it altogether. The whole point of trying to rush the Gang of Eight bill through the Senate, though, is that it won’t be “fixed” if people start tinkering with it on the floor. It’ll fall apart, just as Lindsey Graham warned. That’s why Pat Leahy was willing to grant only two token hearings before letting the Judiciary Committee tackle it. The fact that Rubio’s now resorting to a “fix, don’t kill” talking point — and it’s not just Rubio — makes me think the bill’s suddenly in more trouble than we thought. (Thank Bob Goodlatte for that, I guess.) I wonder if headlines like this are starting to weigh on him. Mark Krikorian asks a good question too:

If you’re Mark Pryor or Mary Landrieu, why would you vote yes on an amnesty that’s going to annoy conservative voters if it won’t even end up becoming law?

As for the House plan:

The House immigration working group has tentatively settled on a plan that would require illegal immigrants to appear in federal court and plead guilty to breaking U.S. immigration law. Illegal immigrants would be required to complete this step before embarking on a conditional pathway to citizenship that would take at least a decade. In fact, illegal immigrants would essentially be granted legal status when a federal judge sentences them to “probation” for illegally crossing the border.

“The legal process in the House bill is stiffer to emphasize that the law was broken, and to [recognize] the need to uphold the rule of law,” said a Republican congressional aide familiar with the House immigration working group’s negotiations.

An undocumented immigrant’s probation sentence would likely come with certain conditions and run about five years, and then be renewed for another five years to cover the assumed 10-year path-to-citizenship timetable. The GOP congressional aide described the process as similar to how judges handle small drug crimes, in which offenders are sentenced to probation, rather than jail, because it forces them to acknowledge that they broke the law but saves taxpayers the expense of incarceration.

So the House plan adds an element of shame for people who broke the law but doesn’t add much to make the citizenship path longer? The Gang of Eight’s bill also requires a 10-year waiting period, then five years of permanent residency before being able to apply for citizenship. All you’re gaining here really is a show of criminality, which may placate some border hawks but is counterproductive if the big political goal is to win some Latinos over. (Imagine what the Democratic messaging machine will do with the requirement of pleading out in court.) Maybe I’ve misread Rubio, then. He’s not especially troubled, perhaps, that his bill won’t pass the House. They’ll get to the same basic result, they’ll just dress it up differently to make it more superficially draconian. In fact, it’s arguably in the interest of immigration reform for Rubio to talk up the House bill as being somehow tougher than his own, just as it was in the interest of immigration reform for Obama to float his own bill that’s superficially weaker than the Gang of Eight’s in order to make the GOE bill seem tougher by comparison. In both cases, you’re giving conservatives rhetorical cover to vote for a bill that’s much less conservative than it should be.

Exit question via Byron York: Are we sure there isn’t going to be another huge wave of illegal immigration in the future? According to Pew, more than one-third of Mexicans polled recently say they’d like to move to the U.S. Of that number, 15 percent say they’d do so if they were authorized to do it; the other 20 percent say they’re interested in doing it even without authorization. Go play with Nate Silver’s new electoral toy to see what that might mean for the presidential election of 2028.

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Ed Morrissey 10:01 AM on December 06, 2022