Hendricks County Flyer, Avon, IN

Commentary

February 8, 2013

Marco Rubio's bad deal

In Washington, a new gang has been born. The Gang of Eight on immigration is here to tell us that we have succeeded in not enforcing the law so persistently and thoroughly that now we have to give up all pretense.

The Gang of Eight, headlined by conservative star Marco Rubio, wants to amnesty the 11 million immigrants who are already here as a product of past nonenforcement in exchange for a promise of future enforcement.

Supporters of comprehensive immigration reform resolutely refuse to say the word "amnesty." They contend that the proposed package is not an amnesty because illegal immigrants have to go to the back of the line for a green card. But before that happens, they get "probationary legal status." As a practical matter, this is the amnesty.

Sen. Chuck Schumer states it with admirable clarity: "On Day One of our bill, the people without status [i.e., illegal immigrants] who are not criminals or security risks will be able to live and work here legally." You can't get more direct than that.

Once an illegal immigrant gets "probationary legal status," he has jumped irrevocably ahead of all those poor saps back in their native countries who want to come to the U.S. but for whatever reason were unwilling or unable to break our immigration laws to do it.

All indications are that this kind of "probationary" legal status matters more to illegal immigrants than an eventual path to citizenship. In an essay in the journal National Affairs, immigration expert Peter Skerry points out that 20 years after the implementation of the 1986 amnesty, only 41 percent of the 2.7 million people who got legal status under the program had gone on to become citizens.

So the Gang of Eight can make the path to a green card and eventual citizenship as long and onerous as it wants. It can make applicants not only learn English but speak in an affected patrician accent. It can make them do handstands and cartwheels. All of that will be irrelevant to the lived reality of formerly illegal immigrants who can become legal once the Gang of Eight principles are written into law.

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