Guy Benson

Washington is bickering over whether the Cornyn amendment to the Gang of Eight framework is a deal-breaking and onerous "poison pill," or a totally inadequate "Trojan horse."  The New York Times published a piece pondering that exact question on Friday.  It quoted Chuck Schumer panning the plan as a "nonstarter" and "deal-killer," without specifying a single policy flaw.  How does any of this go "too far"?  One Republican Senator is having none of this entire show.  Alabama's Jeff Sessions released a blistering statement Sunday morning preemptively rejecting any "cosmetic fixes" to the legislation (hyperlinks and emphasis his):


When the Gang of Eight first announced their immigration bill they declared it was the toughest enforcement plan in history. They declared enforcement would come before legalization. And they declared that anyone who suggested otherwise didn’t know what they were talking about. Now the bill has been reviewed and there can be no dispute: it weakens current law, undermines future enforcement and puts amnesty—not enforcement—first. So new promises of amendment ‘fixes’ to save the bill should be viewed with great skepticism: every time, on every issue, the promises have not matched with reality. They promised back taxes—but the requirement isn’t there; they promised tight restrictions on welfare benefits—but state and local benefits, as well as tax credits, will be available immediately and federal welfare access is granted to millions of illegal immigrants starting in five years; they promised to protect workers—but this bill would devastate workers by tripling the number of legal immigrants over the next decade and doubling the number of guest workers.

No small cosmetic fix can save this bill, with so many provisions clearly authored by special interests whose chief desires are lower wages and amnesty—rather than a lawful, rational system of immigration. As the ICE officers’ association warned: ‘instead of cracking down on the Administration’s abuse of power, S. 744 places unprecedented new restrictions on interior enforcement—making the current situation much worse and much more hazardous. It is as if S. 744 were explicitly written to handcuff law enforcement officials—binding their hands while giving virtually unchecked authority to executive branch officials to prevent future removals, including removals of criminal aliens.’ And as the USCIS adjudications officers warned: ‘the legislation was written with special interests—producing a bill that makes the current system worse, not better. S. 744 will damage public safety and national security and should be opposed by lawmakers.’ It’s time for the Gang of Eight to start being straight with the American public.”


Remember, top Democrats have stated on the record that they'll veto any changes to the current bill that exceed "tweaks."  We already know that any move toward an 'enforcement first' paradigm doesn't qualify.  Whether Cornyn's plan would really short-circuit the process remains to be seen; Sessions views the discussion as misdirection. His office also blasted out a video clip of the Senate Judiciary Committee defeating Sessions' amendment that would have blocked newly-legalized immigrants from receiving a generous tax subsidy during their provisional status.  All ten committee Democrats opposed the measure, while Republicans -- Lindsey Graham included -- unanimously voted aye.  This 10-8 party line vote took place nearly a month ago, but Sessions believes it's an enduring example of 'gang' rhetoric not aligning with reality:



Chris Crane, president of the National Immigration and Customs Enforcement Council, has also warned that the proposed bill does not sufficiently address interior enforcement:

It appears that the individuals and organizations involved in crafting the Gang of Eight legislation purposely ignored interior enforcement with the intent of continuing the practices which have led to the nation’s current immigration problems. The proof of this is the bill itself, S.744, the Gang of Eight ’ s immigration legislation. With visa overstays accounting for an estimated 40% of the 11 million illegal aliens currently in the United States (4.5 million), S. 744 speaks only of significant increases to border enforcement, not interior enforcement. Clearly, 4.5 million visa overstays entered the United States legally, and did not illegally cross our nation’s borders. This is a problem that cannot be stopped by the United States Border Patrol. Investments in border security will never address this problem, which accounts for almost half of all illegal aliens currently in the United States . Additionally, investments on the border will do nothing to ensure that everyone who illegally crosses the border into the United States is apprehended and removed. That again is ICE’s interior enforcement mission.

Part of the interior security problem will supposedly be resolved by the new bill's revamped visa entry-exit system.  Sounds good, but similar laws have been on the books for the years and haven't been properly enforced by the executive branch.  If "this time is different," I'd love to know how and why.  Which brings us, once again, to Marco Rubio.  Contra Sessions, Rubio thinks most of the bill is "in perfect shape."  Interesting.  His vocal support for the Cornyn amendment reportedly prompted a private slap-down from fellow 'gang' members, which then leaked to the media.  Whether those machinations are a piece of elaborate kabuki, or evidence of genuine trouble in paradise, is unclear at the moment.  There's some evidence that Rubio may be edging away from a full embrace of Cornyn's proposal -- namely, his co-authorship of a new border enforcement amendment with Tom Coburn.  Is that what this will be, or will Rubio stand firmly behind Cornyn? 

Guy Benson

Guy Benson is Townhall.com's Senior Political Editor. Follow him on Twitter @guypbenson.

Author Photo credit: Jensen Sutta Photography