Following the poor showing of Republicans among immigrant voters last election the prevailing wisdom was that Congress would finally figure out how to pass immigration reform.
But as immigration proposals moved through both houses any hopes for a deal were dashed by Republicans who stuck with an old position: immigration reform can’t seriously be discussed until the border with Mexico is secured to reduce the flow of illegal immigration.
But with a deal struck in the Senate late last week, that excuse for not fixing a broken immigration system has evaporated.
The “border surge” amendment negotiated by Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tennessee, would substantially beef up border security. Even he said the measures in the amendment are “almost overkill.”
Well, yes they are. The plan calls for more than $3.2 billion in added surveillance equipment, hundreds more miles of fencing and 20,000 more border patrol agents.
Never mind the border is now more secure than ever and illegal crossings are at a 40-year low.
Still, the amendment gives Republicans who truly want to fix the immigration system a reason to support reform.
The pending reform bill would finally bring out of the shadows the 11 million immigrants who are in this country without permission.
The bill would grant those immigrants provisional status almost immediately, allowing them to work, live and travel legally. They could eventually progress to legal residence status and then qualify for citizenship.
Many Republicans had tried to insert amendments into the reform bill that would prevent granting even provisional status to immigrants until the border is certified as secure. That tactic, many thought, would mean immigrants here without permission would have to wait decades to move toward citizenship — if ever.
Corker’s amendment allows for both the border security the GOP has demanded and the path to citizenship supported by Democrats.
Yes, the high-cost border security amendment may be overkill, but political solutions come from compromises that aren’t perfect.