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Charles Krauthammer's op-ed column on immigration reform.
If legalization would go into effect only when these conditions are met, there would be overwhelming bipartisan pressure to get enforcement done as quickly
Regrettably, there appears to be zero political will to undertake this kind of definitive solution. Democrats have little real interest in border enforcement. They see a rising Hispanic population as the key to a permanent Democratic majority. And Republicans are so panicked by last year's loss of the Hispanic vote by 44 points that they have conceded instant legalization. As in the Rubio proposal.
Hence Rubio's fallback. He at least makes enforcement the trigger for any normalization beyond legalization. Specifically, enforcement is required before the 11 million can apply for a green card.
A green card is surely a much weaker enforcement incentive than is legalization. But it still is something. Obama's proposal, on the other hand, obliterates any incentive for enforcement.
Obama makes virtually automatic the eventual acquisition of a green card and citizenship by today's 11 million. The clock starts on the day the bill is signed: eight years for a green card, five more for citizenship. It doesn't matter if the border is flooded with millions of new illegal immigrants (anticipating yet the next amnesty). The path to citizenship is irreversible, rendering enforcement irrelevant.
As for Obama's enforcement measures themselves, they are largely mere gestures: increased funding for border control, more deportation judges, more indeterminate stretching of a system that has already demonstrably failed. (Hence today's 11 million.) Except for the promise of an eventual universal E-Verify system, it is nothing but the appearance of motion.
And remember: Non-implementation of any of this has no effect on the path to full citizenship anyway. The Rubio proposal at least creates some pressure for real enforcement because green card acquisition does not take place until the country finally verifies that its borders are under its control. True, a far weaker incentive than requiring enforcement before legalization. But that fight appears to be totally lost.
In the end, the only remaining vessel for enforcement is the Rubio proposal. It is deeply flawed and highly imperfect. But given that the Obama alternative effectively signs away America's right to decide who enters the country, the choice between the two proposals on the table today is straightforward.
Charles Krauthammer is a columnist