If Americans cannot see, touch and measure all 700 miles of the fence, it doesn't exist as promised, and a promise of a fence isn't a fence and shouldn't be a trigger. Seven hundred new miles is the magic number put forward in the Corker-Hoeven amendment, but that was the magic number in the 2006 bill, of which only 36 miles were built. Democrats are agreeing to the fence, so the language assuring its construction should be very, very specific, and the details of its design and location -- no more traffic barriers easily moved counting as fence-- must be spelled out. Impediments to quick construction like the Endangered Species Act and Clean Water Act should be cleared away "notwithstanding any other law language" in the final bill. This is very easy to draft, and the quickest way to wreck the bill is to cheat on these provisions, but Senator Rubio is committed to the fence, and he knows many of his critics are looking for a reason to reject his efforts as inadequate. I am guessing they will be adequate, though the trigger will be green cards instead of regularization, a concession to Democrats.
Anti-regularization forces will automatically say the amendment is not enough and that it is window-dressing. I was prepared to do the same yesterday when early reports suggested it was merely a press release and not a fence guarantee. If the fence isn't there or is ambiguous in its design or construction schedule, I'll be back in the "kill the bill" camp.
But for now it seems the Senate has successfully completed step one of immigration reform. It may be one step forward and two steps back when we see the actual language, but for the time being, I hope the GOP got one right. If it did, we can thank Marco Rubio.
One last thought: If a commission is needed to certify anything, name the commissioners in the bill and spell out their duties. Pick people who bring credibility to the table, and avoid confirmation battles and gamesmanship down the road. Spell. It. Out. If the majority and minority in both houses get two each, fine; let's have the eight names and their alternates as well. Nothing to chance, no chance for nothing.
Trust but verify, as the Gipper used to say. Congress promised 700 miles of fence seven years ago. That's what the American people should keep in mind as the bill clears its first hurdle. That and the absolute need for real, lasting border security, the sort that cannot be turned off or redeployed -- the fence.
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