The Rubio Con

Mickey Kaus Columnist
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Sometimes a political con is just too transparent to fly: Remember the idea that Mitt Romney had defused the venerable Medicare issue in Florida because Obama had squeezed some money out of the program (money that Romney would inevitably have to squeeze himself)? Right. I suspect the con at the heart of what seems to be the immigration proposal from the Senate “Gang of 8“–seven veteran amnesty supporters plus Marco Rubio–will prove equally unworkable:

According to a five-page document provided to POLITICO, the sweeping proposal — agreed to in principle by eight senators — would seek to overhaul the legal immigration system as well as create a pathway to citizenship for the nation’s roughly 11 million illegal immigrants. But establishing that pathway would depend on whether the U.S. first implements stricter border enforcement measures and new rules ensuring immigrants have left the country in compliance with their visas. [Emphasis added]

If you read closely, you learn that illegal immigrants will actually be legalized immediately–given “probationary legal status,” allowing them to “live and work legally in thee United States” (according to Politico). The only thing that’s delayed, pending “stricter border enforcement,” is the opening of a “path to citizenship.” As if, once legalized, the 11 million are going to be unlegalized if  enforcement measures are implemented with less than 100% efficacy.

The penalty for failing to meet the enforcement “trigger,” in other words, is both insufficient and fake. Insufficient because the undocumented will already have gotten the most important thing–the ability to live and work here legally (permanently, if we’re being realistic about it). Fake because it’s silly to think these 11M will be held indefinitely in non-citizen limbo if the implementation of enforcement fails, as it did in the last big immigration reform in 1986.

But don’t worry–it looks like there’s very little chance the “enforcement” effort will be found wanting– the “trigger” itself seems as phony as the penalty it avoids. It features that staple of Washington fakery, the hand-picked  blue-ribbon commission:

Before a pathway to citizenship can happen, the group says that new border security measures first must take effect, including an increase in the number of unmanned aerial vehicles and agents at the border, new rules tracking people entering the country on temporary visas and the creation of a commission of southwestern political and community leaders to ensure the new enforcement mechanisms take effect. [Emphasis added]

We await further details on this festival of legislative gimmickry, but on first glance it certainly looks like a cynical effort designed to allow Hispanicked Republicans to seem tough while voting for amnesty: Look at all those drones! Yes, the undocumented will be able to legally steal your job–but, hey, they won’t get to vote!

Update: The text of the Gang of 8 “framework” is here. …

Bonus Gimmick: The plan also includes a version of the traditional “back of the line” con–the claim that current undocumented immigrants would have to “get in the back of the line of prospective immigrants” where (in Rubio’s words)

They will have to wait behind everyone who applied before them legally…

The problem, as Lawrence Lindsey outlined in the Weekly Standard in 2006 when this same basic scheme cropped up, is that there are at least two lines1) the line to get into the country legally and 2) the line to get a green card and citizenship once you are here. The Gang of 8/Rubio plan, by legalizing illegal immigrants immediately, lets them skip line #1 entirely, bypassing those who are patiently waiting in their countries, sometimes for 10-15 years, for permission to come here. It only requires them to go to the back of line #2.  When Rubio says

we also can’t fix our broken immigration system if we provide incentives for people to come here illegally

he’s being highly disingenuous. The Gang plan provides a giant incentive for people to come here illegally–they skip the queue of people waiting back home in Line #1, people who’d love to be able to wait in Line #2 while legally living and working in the U.S. …

Mickey Kaus