It’s not the inclusion of a pathway to citizenship that has immigration reform proponents worried — at this point, it’s clear that this will be part of any deal Senate negotiators produce.

It’s how difficult they choose to make it…

“The sleeper issue in immigration reform is, do all 11 million people qualify for legal status or is it a fraction?” said Deepak Bhargava, executive director of the Center for Community Change, a pro-reform group. “This issue is the potential deal-breaker in the whole mix. If the requirements are so onerous that only a fraction of eligible people can actually adjust their status and get legal, there will be a hugely negative reaction to the bill in the immigrant community.”…

“My instinct is they want to be inclusive in who is eligible,” said Angela Kelley, a leading immigration expert with the Center for American Progress. “They recognize you want to try to have a program that permits as many people as possible to come forward. … I think it will be an accessible road but a long road.”


Finally, after the border is secure and our guest worker and visa programs are modernized, the legislation must address what to do with the people who are here illegally. I know some citizens want to round them all up, but this is not realistic. Instead, we can create an appropriate program to normalize their status…

The legislation should not provide a special pathway to citizenship for the millions who have willfully violated our immigration laws. Those who entered the U.S. as children, through no fault of their own, will be allowed to have a pathway to citizenship. But those who entered illegally as adults will only be allowed to participate in the new and improved guest worker and visa programs.

I am not advocating a two-tiered immigration system or second-class status — those who can become citizens and those who can never become citizens. Anyone who wants to become a naturalized citizen of the United States is welcome to apply. But Congress must not make it any easier for those who entered our country illegally to obtain citizenship. Those who qualify for the new guest worker and visa programs and desire citizenship would be placed at the end of the line behind others immigrating legally. It would be a travesty to treat those who violated our laws better than those who have patiently waited their turn to come to the United States the right way.


Rubio is building in several insurance policies:

1) Behind the scenes, Rubio has been courting conservative leaders and talk-radio hosts, hoping they’ll give him leeway when he needs it. One of his arguments: There’s nothing conservative about having 11 million people in the country illegally. So far, he has been encouraged by what he has heard. In late January, when the Senate gang issued the framework that it is now filling in, Rubio did a tour of Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, Sean Hannity and other conservative talkers, and got a surprisingly respectful — even favorable — response…

2) The proposal’s pathway to citizenship will be triggered by a rigorous set of metrics that, according to sources, will take years for the U.S. to meet. Workplace-enforcement mechanisms would discourage employers from hiring illegals. And Rubio has been pushing for a 10-year wait for people who are here illegally now to apply for a green card. Even with these guardrails, Rubio doesn’t know how conservatives will react when groups start running ads saying Republicans are creating 10 million new Democratic voters, all of whom broke the law.

3) Rubio advisers studied conservative objections to past immigration packages and found that a frequent complaint was that the measures had been too rushed. So Rubio has very publicly insisted on multiple hearings, and a wide-open debate and amendment process in the Judiciary Committee and on the Senate floor. “In order to succeed, this process cannot be rushed or done in secret,” he said in Sunday’s statement. He wants buy-in from other Republican senators, and a big number on final passage, not a close vote.


It would seem that Rubio and the Democrats are playing chicken, each one calculating the other will flinch first. Democrats think the GOP is so desperate for an amnesty they’ll agree to anything. For his part, Rubio is trying to secure his status of godfather of an immigration “compromise” by threatening delay, knowing the Democrats (and Lindsey Graham) are desperate to ram the amnesty through before the public gets a good look at it and before the midterm elections get too close…

I think, in the end, that Rubio’s desire to shepherd an amnesty through Congress will cause him to cave to the Democrats’ demands. The Dems will give Rubio a few trivial concessions, so he can try to tell Limbaugh, Levin, et al. that he didn’t lie to them. But if I’m wrong, and he walks away saying he did his best but couldn’t overcome the Democrats’ for amnesty without enforcement, Rubio could strengthen his 2016 prospects.


“The Senate is littered with Republicans who negotiated with Chuck Schumer, thinking they had one deal when he had something else entirely in mind,” said Rick Wilson, a Florida-based GOP consultant. “I think [Rubio is] very mindful of the two potential negative outcomes (something perceived as a blanket/easy amnesty or a deal perceived as not moving the ball in a meaningful way) but still views this as a right policy/right politics matter.”…

[I]f the perception is that Rubio either a) got rolled or b) rolled over when it comes to a path to citizenship for undocumented workers, which Democrats insist must be in any comprehensive plan, it could mean real trouble for him with the conservative base of the GOP.

In the end, Rubio has to be able to say to conservatives something along these lines: “I fought with Democrats. I told them what we needed to allow undocumented workers a path to citizenship. They didn’t want it but I held firm and we got it done.”


Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) union president Chris Crane’s request to meet with the bipartisan group of eight senators developing a comprehensive immigration reform bill was denied.

“Since the Gang of 8 has not met with anybody else, they did not agree to meet with the ICE union president,” Juan Pachado, a spokesman for Sen. Bob Menendez,D-N.J., told The Washington Examiner in an email.

ICE union president Chris Crane requested the meeting last week. “Any comprehensive immigration bill would have enormous consequences for our officers and for the citizens we protect,” Crane, who has testified before congressional panels on the issue, wrote in the letter. “Fundamentally, I would implore you to consider this issue from the perspective of our officers who risk their lives every day in a constant uphill climb to uphold the laws of the land.”


The bottom line: Most Americans would support an immigration reform plan, but only if border security comes first. And by “first” they mean before the legalization of currently illegal immigrants and before the creation of a path to citizenship. Would they be more flexible if they truly believed the federal government’s promise to secure the border? Perhaps — but they don’t believe.

And why should they? Previous pledges to secure the border have ended in half-hearted enforcement. Yes, there is more border security today than there was a decade ago. But there has always been, it seems, a resistance in the federal bureaucracy to relatively simple actions, like finishing a sufficiently secure border fence, that would contribute greatly to enhanced enforcement…

So it is in that atmosphere that the Gang of Eight prepares to unveil its comprehensive reform plan. The biggest obstacle won’t be a guest worker program or some other detail. It will be the public’s lack of trust.


“It’s long overdue,” Graham said on Fox News. “If we don’t do it now, it will be a decade or more before anyone takes it up again.”