Byron York
To hear Sen. Charles Schumer tell it, lawmakers crafting an immigration reform bill will focus on two big tasks. "First, defining metrics that demonstrate that the border is secure," the New York Democrat explained at a Jan. 31 news conference. "Second, defining exactly what the path to citizenship looks like and how it proceeds."

For Schumer and some Senate colleagues, that is the short version of immigration reform: first, border security, and second, a path to citizenship.

But immigration reform as envisioned by the so-called Gang of Eight is actually a three-step process. Schumer left out the first part: immediate legalization of the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the country. In the statement of principles released by the gang on Jan. 28, legalization begins the process, followed by securing the border, and then, after an as-yet-undefined standard of border enforcement is met, a path to citizenship.

It's the first step, immediate legalization, that worries skeptics. Those worries intensified after Schumer and others gave varying accounts of how they expect it all to work.

When the Gang of Eight rolled out its proposal, Schumer spoke openly about immediate legalization. "On day one of our bill, the people here without status who are not criminals or security risks will be able to live and work here legally," he said. "Immediately when the bill passes, people who are here living in the shadows would get a legal right to stay here and work. They would no longer be deported, provided they don't have a criminal record. They would no longer be harassed. They would be working ... the ability to stay here and work and stay in America and not be deported or harassed comes virtually immediately."

Two days later, at a forum sponsored by Politico, Schumer added emphasis: "People immediately can get a work visa, so they're out of the shadows, they can work, they can stay in the United States if they don't have a criminal charge against them."

Byron York

Byron York, chief political correspondent for The Washington Examiner