There are only 800,000 or so DACA enrollees. A bill legalizing three times as many people would be quite an amnesty indeed.

Wait, did I say “amnesty”? The co-sponsors, Thom Tillis and James Lankford, are adamant that this isn’t that even though it specifically imagines permanent residency and eventually citizenship for DREAMers who hold down a job and avoid getting into criminal trouble. That’s a vintage Republican distinction when pitching legalization plans for illegals. So long as legalization isn’t given unconditionally then it can’t be called amnesty.

Look at it this way: If we’re probably going to end up amnestizing all DREAMers eventually, not just the group that signed up for DACA, we might as well rip the band-aid off and do it in one bill.

[U]nlike other merit-based immigration proposals that limit new immigrants from entering the country based on their job skills, this proposal would limit who can remain in the country based on their years of American education, work experience or military service…

All applicants will have to pass a medical examination and be “extreme vetted.” The vetting will include three separate rounds of security and background checks to ensure they have no criminal history and pose no national security threat. The first check would happen when the immigrant enters the program followed by a second check after five years. The third check comes after 15 years, if and when the immigrant applies to become a citizen

The proposal would grant high school graduates without a serious criminal record conditional immigration status for a five-year period. During that time, if they earn a higher-education degree, serve in the military or stay employed, they could apply for permanent residency and, eventually, citizenship.

So, sounds like you get five years of legal status to prove that you can hold down a job, get your college degree, or enlist. Do one of the three and you’re eligible for permanent residency. Keep your nose clean and, 10 years after that, you can become a citizen. That’s the Tillis/Lankford timeframe, anyway; Democrats will insist on something more accelerated. I assume we’ll end up with an eight- to 10-year citizenship path if this were to become law.

It’s … odd that the party in charge of the White House, the Senate, and the House is the first to ante up on a big DREAMers-for-security deal. You would think the minority party would be under pressure to dangle security concessions to the majority, in order to get them to come to the table on an amnesty that’ll be painful to some of their base. Maybe these numbers help explain the dynamic:

It’s an amazing, appalling fact about the American public that support for legislation *drops* when you propose adding generic border security improvements to DACA. ABC doesn’t provide partisan splits on that question but we can guess which party’s driving the opposition. As for the 86 percent who support “DACA,” that comes with an asterisk. ABC asked, “Do you support or oppose a program that allows undocumented immigrants to stay in the United States if they arrived here as a child, completed high school or military service and have not been convicted of a serious crime?” That’s a basic summary of what DACA does, but it omits the core constitutional objection that Obama had no power to unilaterally amnestize a class of illegals without Congress’s acquiescence. Even so, the number here (which includes 75 percent support among Republicans) shows you how much support there might be for a *legislative* amnesty for DACA enrollees, especially if Trump gets behind it.

Don’t overlook the support for E-Verify in that graph, either. Seventy-nine percent in favor of verifying a job applicant’s legal status before hiring him is nothing to sniff at, and unlike generic “border security,” it would be a meaningful improvement in reducing illegal immigration. If Trump thinks getting Pelosi and Schumer to bite on the RAISE Act is impossible, why not go to the mat for mandatory E-Verify in American businesses? He’s got a supermajority on his side. Make the Democrats choke by opposing it.