Fine print matters -- a lot -- but if press reports of the Corker-Hoeven amendment are correct and the small print matches the large promises, this amendment would yield a Senate bill that I could applaud.
The increase in Border Patrol presence is fine, but it's no substitute for the fence. I agree with my friend Kurt Schlichter, who argues that, if we are about to hire 20,000 new Border Patrol agents, we should show preference for returning combat veterans. Since men and women leaving the downsized Army and Marine Corps already have the skills necessary to train for this difficult and often dangerous work, that preference should be part of the law.
Other small details could improve the bill. Schools impacted by newly regularized immigrants will need the sort of assistance that really matters to kids -- for example, infrastructure dollars to build sports facilities and salaries for coaches. Sport is the greatest assimilation energizer, and too many of these impacted districts will cut athletics while retaining administrative staff. If we want the newly regularized to join the American mainstream, putting them on the fields of competition will ameliorate the process. Two great examples that attest to this are the UNO system in Chicago (written about most recently by David Feith of the Wall Street Journal and AEI) and the Great Hearts Academies in Arizona (a public choice school system of which I am a board member). If the GOP is on its toes in the House, it will work hardest on the education provisions of the bill the Senate sends over, marking for itself the task of ensuring that newly regularized Americans on a path to eventual citizenship obtain the tools necessary to make the most of that citizenship.
But these potential House improvements are contingent on the Corker-Hoeven language concerning the fence. The billions spent on border security technology would be great, but this technology can't match the old-fashioned brick-and-mortar fence.