Dan Holler

Under the auspices of immigration reform, a prominent bipartisan group of lawmakers has embarked on a months-long journey. At the outset, some were hopeful that closed-door negotiations would result in concrete steps to fix our nation’s broken immigration system.

In a recent interview, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) seemed to acknowledge he thought real reform was possible. In an interview with Sean Hannity, Rubio said, “When I initially got involved in this effort in December of last year, I initially said let’s make sure everything, including that first step [of legalization], is conditioned on the border and all these other things.”

After identifying a “problem” with that approach, Rubio opted for the legalization-first approach favored by the likes of Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and John McCain (R-AZ). Many of his colleagues did not get the message, though. Last week, 43 Senators voted in favor of an enforcement-first approach.

The amendment, offered by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), would have required that the border be secured before illegal immigrants were allowed to apply for legal status, known as registered provisional immigrant (RPI) status. If all 43 Senators remain committed to an enforcement-first approach, the Gang of Eight bill is effectively dead because Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) would not have the 60 votes necessary to cut off debate.

Unfortunately, intellectual consistency is a rarity in Washington.

Of the 43 Senators voting in favor of an enforcement-first approach, one -- Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) -- has already announced her support for the Gang of Eight’s legalization-first approach. Another, Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) has proposed a border security and enforcement amendment that could attract significant support from some of his Republican colleagues, including Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

Interestingly enough, Cornyn’s criticism of the Gang of Eight’s bill (Dallas Morning News, 6/5) is fitting of his amendment:

“For starters, its border-security triggers are talking points disguised as policy: Legalization of the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States would be activated by meaningless promises rather than concrete results. Haven’t we heard enough of that from Washington?”

Cornyn demonstrated a Rubio-esque logic shift when he penned a new op-ed (USA Today, 6/9) just a few days later. Rather than focusing on the “legalization of the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants”, Cornyn focused on how the “bill grants permanent legal status to millions of undocumented immigrants without any guarantee of a secure border.”

Dan Holler

Dan Holler is the Communications Director for Heritage Action for America. Previously, he held numerous positions at The Heritage Foundation, most recently he was the Senate Relations Deputy. A Maryland native, he is a graduate of Washington College.