posted on March 22, 2013 12:33
Republicans' insistence that border security benchmarks be met before legalizing 11-12 million illegal immigrants could sink an emerging compromise measure that is expected to be unveiled in the next few weeks.
According to congressional aides, the "Gang of Eight" senators negotiating a sweeping immigration bill are on track to unveil draft legislation at the beginning of April. Similarly, a bipartisan group of House members is honing its own version. The cornerstone of both measures is a mass probationary legalization of noncriminal undocumented immigrants.
Republicans are reluctant to give breaks to immigrants who violated the law. They acknowledge, however, that mass deportation is simply not possible.
Negotiators are discussing a variety of enforcement-related benchmarks, or "triggers," that would need to be met before the population of undocumented immigrants can move toward citizenship. But some lawmakers worry that forestalling citizenship in the name of border security may not be enough of an incentive for the authorities.
Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho), a leading voice for tea party conservatives on immigration, has suggested that even the probationary legalization of illegal immigrants should wait until some enforcement mechanisms are in place, "We have to have enforcement triggers happen before anyone receives any kind of legal status."
There may be middle ground between the two sides. The Department of Homeland Security can certainly up its enforcement game, particularly on the border, while it is drafting rules for legalizing the illegal population. Once a bill passes, the immigration enforcement agencies can be directed to hold off on any new detentions of illegal immigrants who might qualify for probationary legal status.