Rubio can win the great “hearing” fight

Mickey Kaus Columnist
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Nothing new since 2007? Democrats–in particulary Sen. Patrick Leahy and White House press secretary Jay Carney–have worked themselves into an untenable position on the question of whether the Senate should hold new hearings on the as-yet-unwritten Gang of Eight immigration plan. The Dem argument is that all the issues involved in immigration have been thoroughly ventilated over the years. Here’s Carney:

“[A]s veterans of the Senate know, this issue has been under consideration at very serious levels periodically for a long time now … I think the characterization of regular order here has to be understood within the context of the fact that this legislation in essence has been on the table and subject to debate in the United States Congress for many years now … The basic outlines of what has been under consideration and is being worked on by the Gang of Eight and has been proposed by the President reflects legislation that was considered in Congress, in 2006, 2007, I believe.”

The trouble for Carney is that, while the gist of the arguments on each side have remained roughly the same, there are lots of new issues that have cropped up since the Senate voted down the Bush amnesty plan in 2007. There are even new issues that have cropped up since the Gang of 8 last met a week ago. Here are a few of them:

–Amnestiers claim the new demographics of Mexico make another wave of illegal immigration from that country unlikely–basically because there are no more Mexicans left to come here. Sounds interesting, but is it true? What about El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala? Cleaned out too? What if the Mexican economy slips into a recession?  What are the chances of that happening? ‘A hearing could help sort these things out.

–The guest worker plan hashed out by business and labor, was hailed as anew model, a modern visa systemby the AFL-CIO’s Rich Trumka. If it’s such a new model, then maybe we should find out about it! In any case, business already has criticisms.

–The Gang Plan, at the insistence of Sen. Rubio, apparently has some sort of fancy new “trigger,” related to border security. How is this trigger triggered? Do any good  “metrics” of border security exist? The Department of Homeland Security apparently can’t come up with one. Even a pro-amnesty figure like Jeb Bush seems troubled by that.

–The plan legalizes the existing 11 million people who have crossed the border or orverstayed their visas without permission illegal immigrants before any of these metrics or other trigger components are satisifed–all the trigger affects is the subsequent application of the now-legal, formerly illegal residents for green cards and ultimately citizenship. This is not how the 2007 legislation was structured. What are the chances the”path to citizenship” of the newly legal residents will actually be held up if the border security targets aren’t met? Or is the plan mainly designed to let Sen. Rubio look tough? Are potential illegals now living abroad drawn by the mere promise of legal residence? Is citizenship or a green card really all that important?

–The Obama administration itself claims something new has happened since 2007–specifically it claims the border is now more secure. Is it? Just today the L.A. Times is reporting that new, post-2007 technology has revealed that border agents catch a significantly smaller percentage of illegal crossers than previously claimed. Maybe look at this new data? Just a thought.

Of course, Democrats know the case for more hearings is strong. They don’t want the hearings because they fear delay–and public discussion–will hurt amnesty’s chances of passage. Opponents of amnesty want the delay for this same strategic reason.

But on the actual merits of the “more hearings” issue–the substance of the process question, if you will–the Republicans are in the right. There are lots of reasons to hold new hearings. Obama’s now in the uncomfortable position of arguing against the goo-goo, pro-transparency, editorial page position for tactical, even cynical reasons. That’s a difficult stand for him to maintain–especially for him. Ed-pages don’t like to advocate cynical ram-it-through tactics, and Obama is sensitive–too sensitive–to ed pages. He likes to present himself as a good-government type.

In short, if Senator Rubio presses his campaign for a “series of several” hearings and a full ventilation of the issues, he’ll probably win it. If he gives up easy–accepting an offer of a single fig-leaf hearing, for example–we’ll know that his demands have just been for show.