What Happens Next on Immigration?

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People who want more immigration as well as people who want less immigration all claim to support "reform." The urgency with which Republicans felt they needed to appeal to Latinos after the 2012 election has faded, and now it seems good enough to just sound pro-reform. Take, for example, a possible compromise The Washington Post's Ezra Klein reports. The Senate bill has a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, but many in the House oppose that. "Some Republicans who want a comprehensive immigration bill to pass, however, think there’s a way out of this impasse," Klein writes. "A path to citizenship that’s so difficult and so time-consuming and expensive that they can convince their members very few immigrants will ever actually use it." The path to citizenship in the Senate bill is already 13 years long, arduous, and involves paying fines. What would be the right length for the path to citizenship? 20 years? 25?

Republican elites want immigration reform. Republican voters do not. You can see what it looks like to split the difference in an editorial in The Wall Street Journal by Arkansas Rep. Tom Cotton—a veteran and a rising star expected to challenge Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor in 2014. Cotton says the problem with the Senate bill is that like Ronald Reagan's amnesty in 1986, it ensures "that we'll have full legalization but little-to-no enforcement." And: " the Senate bill's instant, easy legalization rewards lawbreakers and thus encourages more illegal immigration." Cotton's solution? A 1,969-mile border fence. "When I was a soldier in Iraq and Afghanistan, my units relied on guards and technology to secure our bases, but the first line of defense was always a physical perimeter," he writes. "That's because fences work."  This is a fascinating, first, because in this analogy, immigrants are the insurgents. Not exactly Latino-friendly! Second, Cotton seems to have learned the opposite lesson of everyone else from the Iraq surge. David Petraeus's insight was that keeping American soldiers set apart from Iraqis alienated the local population, and made the insurgency worse.

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After a two-and-a-half-hour strategy meeting on Wednesday, members of Congress were emotional—The New York Times reports lawmakers waited in lines 10 people long to speak, Alabama Rep. Mo Brooks read a lyric from "America the Beautiful" to express the importance of immigrants respecting laws. "Everyone worries they're in the shadows—well, they chose to be in the shadows by doing this illegally," Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar said, according to The Wall Street Journal. Afterward, House Republicans said they will offer several bills to deal with smaller pieces of the immigration system. While it's not clear what those pieces will say, we now know it will take a long time. A senior Republican member of the House said there will be no "resolution to the immigration issue until after the debt ceiling is settled," The New York Times' John Harwood reports. The debt ceiling deadline is in October. But it could take even longer. "[I]it seems increasingly likely to be tossed into a year-end rush, in a way mirroring the 2012 fiscal cliff panic, the 2010 extension of Bush tax rates and other panicked legislating that Washington has become so accustomed to," Politico reports. Except there will be no hard deadline on this issue.

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