Immigration fight moves to House, with deep divide over legalization

“To do legalization first, with promises of future enforcement — that’s just not going to work,” notes one House Republican.

The legalization first fight will likely take the form of Democrats supporting a comprehensive bill versus Republicans in favor of dividing immigration into several separate bills. Dividing the issue would allow the House to pass border security and enforcement measures and then to pass other measures — legalization, guest workers, etc. — that would take effect after the security increases are actually in place.

That is most likely what a majority of the House’s 234 Republicans would prefer. But it is anathema to Democrats, and it is anathema to the Senate Gang. Recently in the Senate Judiciary Committee, Republican Gang members Lindsey Graham and Jeff Flake joined unanimous Democrats to oppose an amendment, supported by the other six Republicans on the committee, that would have required enhanced security measures to be in place for six months before legalization could begin. For Charles Schumer and committee Democrats, that would have been a deal-killer. Graham and Flake went along.

The question in the House is whether the House Gang can produce some sort of legalization-first scheme that sounds tougher than the Senate Gang’s, but still does not have a real, concrete requirement of enhanced security.