Reid accedes to Rand Paul on immigration bill

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor
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One of the major criticisms of the “Gang of Eight” is that they’re attempting to rush the immigration bill through unamended, thus forcing the public to (paraphrasing Nancy Pelosi here) have to pass it to find out what’s in it.

On Tuesday, I demonstrated the falsity of that charge, noting that in response to concerns about maintaining the E-Verify program as it shifts from a participation-optional to participation-mandatory system, the bill has already been amended to explicitly mandate that E-Verify remain in operation during this interim — a concern originally flagged by TheDC’s-own Neil Munro.

Now, another example. You may recall that in the wake of the Boston bombings, Sen. Rand Paul — broadly a supporter of immigration reform as a concept, but one who remains on the fence with regard to this bill — sent a letter to Majority Leader Harry Reid, requesting a Homeland Security Committee hearing on immigration.

A source now tells me that, in fact, Republican members of the Gang of 8 wanted the hearing held and that this — combined with Paul’s insistence — resulted in Reid acceding to the request.

In a letter that went largely unnoticed, Reid responded to Paul’s letter, writing:

I appreciate the support you have shown for reforming our broken immigration system, including for a path to earned citizenship for the roughly 11 million immigrants here unlawfully today. Under the status quo, we do not know who is here and might be intending to do us harm.

This is one of the most important issues the Senate will work on this year. The Judiciary Committee has held several hearings on immigration this year, and continues to hold more. Other committees, including the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, are also holding hearings on the issue. There will be ample opportunity to amend this bill, both in committee and on the floor, as it moves through regular order.

According to the source, prior to the letter being sent to Paul, there had been no indication that the Homeland Security Committee would hold a hearing relevant to the immigration bill.

Harry Reid, of course, could potentially be misleading us. But, for the time being, it appears that Republicans — including Paul and Sen. Rubio — have won an important concession, this time in the realm of procedure.

That follows the win for pro-reform conservatives in getting the E-verify language clarified and, according to Sen. Jeff Flake (who represents a border state where immigration is a major issue), even making Democrats accept border security requirements in the first place.

Don’t look now, but de facto amnesty may be on its way out the door, courtesy of a vastly more conservative-friendly bill and process than immigration-reform opponents want you to believe.


UPDATE: Sen. Reid’s communications director informs me the letter has been previously covered:

My guess is few people watching the immigration debate were aware of this letter — certainly not many of the conservatives who are concerned about amnesty being pushed through. Nevertheless, this is a valid point. Apologies to RollCall’s Niels Lesniewski, and others. I have updated the above post to better reflect the coverage.