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 first 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. Maybe that is possible. In a recent Twitter exchange with Washington Post liberal blogger Greg Sargent, I wrote, "Conservatives don't like legalization first, with no guarantee of enhanced security. Dems won't support anything else." Sargent replied: "Right. Everything is about papering over the fact that there is no actual trigger now, right?"
That is indeed right. What the House debate will show is whether Republicans will accept a bill that mirrors the Senate's legalization-first scheme or require actual security measures to be in place before legalization occurs. Whatever happens, Democrats will not move on legalization first. If Republicans accept it, an immigration reform bill will pass. If Republicans don't, the bill will fail.
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