House Dems' ultimatum: Any immigration bill must have a path to citizenship

We … already knew this, didn’t we? The whole point of immigration reform for the left is earning more Latino votes, be they natural-born American citizens or amnestized illegals from Mexico. If you give up the path to citizenship, what exactly have you gained from this process that’s supposed to impress them?

Returning from recess this week after the Senate passed a broad bill that would overhaul the nation’s immigration laws, House Democrats huddled with the four Democratic senators who helped draft the original bill, completing plans to help push immigration legislation through the Republican-controlled House…

In Tuesday morning’s meeting, according to an aide familiar with Mr. Schumer’s remarks, the senator outlined what he described as Speaker John A. Boehner’s five possible options for handling the issue — doing nothing; opting for a piecemeal approach of several separate but related immigration bills; passing a comprehensive bill that does not include a path to citizenship; passing a comprehensive bill that does include a path to citizenship that is different, and likely stricter, than the one offered in the Senate bill; or taking up the legislation that has passed the Senate.

The thinking, Democratic aides said, is that if Democrats hold back their support for any legislation that does not include a citizenship component, House Republicans, faced with a core group of conservative members who oppose almost any immigration bill, will be unable to pass something on their own.

Boehner has a sixth option, actually — pass a more modest comprehensive bill that offers partial legalization in exchange for some border improvements. DREAM amnesty in return for E-Verify, for example. Despite the endless rhetoric from some House conservatives about a path to citizenship being a nonstarter, it’s hard for me to believe there isn’t a majority in the caucus willing to make some sort of concession to legalization given the abject panic among establishment Republicans about alienating Latinos forever. As I’ve said before, the path to citizenship isn’t even the real problem with the Gang of Eight bill. The problem is that initial legalization comes first, before border security, which destroys the Democrats’ incentive to take the border seriously.

But you know, the longer this clusterfark drags on, the more fatalistic I am about a GOP cave at *some* point, even if it’s not this year. For instance, let’s imagine that border hawks like me finally got our way and Schumer agreed that no form of legalization at all will be granted until the border has been measurably improved. The bill passes, Obama signs it, and we “win.” What happens three years from now when Democrats start grumbling that those improvements are taking too long and that it’s racist to make illegals wait for legalization until it’s secure? The whole story of the past six months (or past eight months, dating back to the election) is that GOP leaders are eager to agree to whatever Democrats demand of them in the name of rebuilding their relationship with Latinos. That won’t change as we get closer to 2016; if anything, it’ll get worse, especially as Democrats improve their efforts to register more Latino voters.. So even if border hawks get everything we want and end up with our dream immigration bill, how much do we trust congressional Republicans not to water this thing down fatally once conservatives have stopped paying attention? (Or even in the conference committee, when they are still paying attention?) This is why I can’t understand Schumer driving a hard bargain on the path to citizenship or anything else, unless he thinks a temporary loss would demoralize his base. He’ll win eventually. It’s a fait accompli. Concede what you need to concede to pass the bill and then take suckers like me for a ride afterward.

Speaking of driving a hard bargain to appease your base, hmmmm:

“It’s clear from everything that I’ve seen and read over the last couple of weeks that the American people expect that we’ll have strong border security in place before we begin the process of legalizing and fixing our legal immigration system,” Boehner said outside the Capitol Monday afternoon.

His spokesman Michael Steel explains that the statement is consistent with Boehner’s “long-standing emphasis on border security.”

There’s a potential compromise there if Schumer could afford to ignore his base and play a long game here: Democrats agree that border security should come first, even before initial probationary legalization, in return for including the Gang of Eight’s path to citizenship in the bill. You might get a sizable number of Republicans voting for that. You’d probably get some Democrats too. That’s the whole trick for Boehner now — can he find some coalition that can get to 218 in the House that would include a majority of Republicans (per the Hastert Rule) plus some significant segment (80-100) of Democrats? Maybe this result, from John McLaughlin’s new poll of Latinos, will sweeten the pot:


Latinos want so-called “extreme” border security too. And here’s one for jittery Republicans who continue to think immigration is the key to winning Latino votes:


Amnesty supporters would argue that this misses the point, that Latinos are unwilling to consider GOP policy proposals on the bread-and-butter issues until they show some goodwill on immigration. As Nate Cohn put it at TNR today, immigration may be more important to skeptical Latino voters as a sign of Republicans’ willingness to “rebrand” than on the merits. There’s some truth to that, even though it smells of the idea that Republicans should agree to whatever Democrat concern-trolls claim is necessary for a successful “rebranding” to occur. But like I said up top, if you’re interested in building goodwill, you could always trade a limited amnesty for limited border improvements — especially if the GOP intends to pass its own form of comprehensive reform after retaking the Senate, as Bill Kristol and Rich Lowry suggest. We’ll lose on immigration in the end because Republicans will eventually cave in terror, but we don’t need to lose completely right away.

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David Strom 10:01 AM on February 06, 2023