The Senate will announce a bipartisan agreement on immigration along the lines I reported yesterday, with the GOP holding firm on moving away from family-based priorities on entry to the US. Jon Kyl apparently carried the day for the GOP:
A bipartisan group of U.S. senators reached agreement on Thursday on an immigration reform bill that would legalize millions of illegal immigrants and establish a merit-based system for future migrants, lawmakers said.
The agreement sets the stage for what is expected to be a passionate Senate debate over immigration and lead the way for what would be one of the most significant accomplishments of President George W. Bush's final term.
Details of the agreement were set to be released at a news conference the group scheduled for 1:30 p.m (1730 GMT). Negotiators, led by Sen. Edward Kennedy, a Massachusetts Democrat, and Sen. Jon Kyl, an Arizona Republican, worked out the final details on Thursday morning.
According to Reuters, it also puts border enforcement ahead of normalization, and workplace enforcement as well. A merit-based points system will determine priority for entry, one which takes into account family but emphasizes knowledge of English, education, and needed skills.
Will this mollify the hard-liners? It's unlikely. Hugh Hewitt has called for a grassroots operation to stop the agreement, even though it pretty much matches what his preferred candidate outlined during the last debate:
MR. WALLACE: Governor Romney, you have also called Senator McCain's immigration plan amnesty. Are you prepared to say that sharing the stage with him tonight? And how do you explain your statement to the Lowell Sun last year in which you said, quote, "Those that are here paying taxes and not taking government benefits should begin a process toward application for citizenship as they would from their home country." Why isn't that amnesty as well, sir?
MR. ROMNEY: Well, my view is this. People should have no advantage by having come here illegally.
MR. WALLACE: But you're not telling them to go home, sir.
MR. ROMNEY: I am going to tell them to go home, but they start by beginning the process of applying for citizenship. But I do not believe -- or applying for permanent residency. They're not going to be barred from doing that, but they do not get any advantage by having come here illegally. That's the key part of what I objected to in McCain-Kennedy.
McCain-Kennedy, what it did is said that people who are here illegally get a special pathway. They're not like all the other immigrants in the world that want to come to this great country; they get a special pathway. That's what's wrong about it. If you're here illegally, you should not have a special pathway to become a permanent resident.
My view, you have to secure the border, number one, have an employment verification system, number two, and number three, say to those that are there illegally, get in line with everybody else; you're not going to have a special doorway, any particular advantage, by having come here illegally, to become a permanent resident.
Well, if this bill has the touchback provision, and it has the Z-visa and the formal guest-worker program, and really secures the border, then it meets his requirements ... doesn't it?
Here's the problem with the hard-liner arguments, which amounts to "they'll never engage the border-security and workplace enforcement portions." Well, that could be true of any immigration bill, even if it completely matched the conservative position on immigration. It's an argument that only supports no action whatsoever on illegal immigration, including border controls. In fact, it applies to everything Congress passes. If that's our concern, it's an argument for non-engagement in the legislative process -- which necessarily works through making compromises that the majority in the end can support.
As I wrote yesterday, this is about as good as we will get in this Congress. In fact, the Democrats probably had enough votes to pass something much more like a wide-open amnesty, given a few Republican votes in support of that and the relaxed attitude of the White House on immigration reform. The GOP did a pretty good job of holding the line and forcing the Democrats to include the border-first triggers, the reduction of the family interest, and the rest of what Kyl managed to retain.
It's not great, and it's not even very good. It's not bad, though, and given our lack of strength in Congress and the White House on this issue, it's a good deal that will strengthen our national security now rather than wait another two years to address it. To quote the Rolling Stones, you can't always get what you want, but sometimes you get what you need. This is one of those times. (via Hot Air)
UPDATE & BUMP, 8:38 PM CT: I'm currently on the way home from Madison and eating dinner at Panera Bread, which has excellent (and free) wi-fi service. I've caught up with the comments, which mostly disagree with me on this topic, and that's fine. I give my honest opinions and allow people to respond as they see fit -- and I've made it easier for people to do so by dropping the Typekey requirement. We've picked up a lot of new commenters in the week since then.
However, some people have decided to make their very first comment at CQ an announcement that they will not return. That's fine, too. Some people cannot brook dissenting points of view, even when respectfully framed. I'm not going to be "turning out the lights" here because some people choose not to visit here anymore, despite suggestions to do so. I would warn those who can't handle disagreement on policy to find another hobby, because policy and legislation is all about handling those disagreements in a productive manner. Taking one's ball and going home is what got us into the minority in the first place.
I'll add a couple of comments about the bill itself. First, my support is based on firm triggers based on border security and employment verification -- in other words, that the compromise exists as described by the Republican Senators who helped craft it, especially Jon Kyl, who has been a very loyal Republican. If not, then I don't support it, because my primary consideration in this is national security. We have to tighten the borders and identify as many illegals as possible as quickly as possible in order to free law enforcement to track down the real bad guys.
I don't want to wait another two years to begin that process. That's why a compromise with the provisions announced today is tolerable, and why it's better than no bill at all. The fact that it took Congress more than 5 years after the beginning of the war on terror to finally get around to producing something that addresses border security is just short of a crime in and of itself.
UPDATE II: Before I hit the road again, I read Dafydd at Big Lizards, who outlines the compromise as it has been announced by the parties to the agreement. As is his wont, Dafydd gets very detailed about the legislation; be sure to check it out.