With the political media's attention trained on scandalmania, coverage of the immigration reform push has gotten short shrift in many quarters. In recent days, we've seen signs of trouble in paradise, with Marco Rubio huddling with skeptical House conservatives, and Democrats fretting that they don't have the votes to pass the 'Gang of Eight' package through the Senate. Rubio, the GOP point man on this issue, has also begun chirping about abandoning his own "gang's" proposal absent significant border security upgrades. Enter Sen. John Cornyn, a Texas conservative, who plans to roll out a significantly beefed-up security package as an amendment to the Senate bill. Guess who basically co-authored it?
Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn intends to introduce a sweeping amendment to the immigration bill when it goes on the floor next week, seeking to replace an entire section devoted to border security and tweak the national security and criminal justice titles. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), one of the members of the Senate’s bipartisan Gang of Eight, has been working with Cornyn on the amendment “for weeks,” a Rubio aide said.
What would the enhanced enforcement regime entail? Jennifer Rubin has the details, which Politico summarizes here:
The Texas Republican wants stricter border patrol provisional “triggers” before registered immigrants are allowed to apply for green card status. His amendment would require 100 percent operational control of the Southern borders and that 90 percent of illegal border crossers be apprehended. It would also require 100 percent border surveillance, or situational awareness, of each one-mile segment of the Southern border and installment of a national E-Verify system before registered immigrants can pursue green cards. Cornyn’s amendment would also add 10,000 Border Patrol officers over five years and deliver emergency funds for border control, including $1 billion a year in entry staffing and infrastructure. The Texas senator is also seeking to include “serious misdemeanors” alongside felonies as criteria that would prohibit immigrants from pursuing legal status. Those crimes include domestic violence, aggravated assault, child abuse, violation of a protection order and drunken driving...
In short: Improved "triggers," thousands of additional border patrol agents, and stricter limits on who can qualify for legal status. (Who is going to argue that convicted child abusers and spouse batterers who entered the country illegally have earned a path to citizenship?) Cornyn's plan would also require both DHS and the Comptroller General of the highly-regarded Government Accountability Office to certify that all of the requisite enforcement mechanisms have been achieved prior to any provisionally-legalized immigrants becoming eligible to obtain green cards. These are welcome improvements to an element of the 'Gang of Eight' framework that was sorely -- and almost offensively -- lacking in previous iterations. But even though some key triggers are made less toothless under this version, the meaningful ones still occur toward the back end of the process. The border metrics don't have to be met before millions of illegal immigrants are granted legal status (a crucial step that many consider to be effective amnesty); they'd only need to be achieved before round two, when "Lawful Permanent Resident" status -- ie, green cards -- is on the table.
If all the border security boxes haven't been checked after ten years, will Washington have the political will power to deny green cards to millions of now-legal immigrants? Will Democrats resist the temptation to demagogue the hell out of Republicans who insist that the law be followed before immigrants "are granted the right to full access to the American dream," or whatever? Color me skeptical. Also, even though Cornyn's amendment would mandate major manpower be deployed to tackle these issues, does the government have the logistical wherewithal to administer the initial one-year (or longer) provisional status application process in a thorough and responsible manner? Comments like this from Chuck Schumer aren't encouraging. Speaking of Schumer, he'll likely have to accede to the Cornyn/Rubio plan if it's going to see the light of day. I'm hearing from plugged-in sources that he's currently disposed to give it the green light. Will the vocal amnesty lobby play along? Will the House?
UPDATE - Cornyn's Press Secretary reached out via Twitter to clarify that only his boss wrote the amendment, which is not what a Rubio source told Politico:
UPDATE II - Another question. Why isn't Schumer at least mustering pro forma opposition to the Cornyn deal?